Except any last-minute change in permutations, Nigeria’s indigenous telecoms giant, Globacom, may finally acquire the debt-ridden 9mobile, ahead of other bidders in the race.
Sources privy to the process said Mike Adenuga’s telecoms network appears ‘more favoured’ to beat Airtel, Dangote Group, and other bidders to the lucrative bid.
The development is coming just as the telecoms umpire, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said the winner in the bidding process for 9mobile takeover would be announced in a few days.
Globacom plans to buy 9mobile (formerly Etisalat) and after buying it, the network stands the possibility of emerging as Nigeria and Africa’s number one network, according to telecoms industry experts.
Industry pundits affirm that Globacom’s acquisition of 9mobile would be an epic coup, considering stiff competition from top telecoms players who have shown interest in the company.
Over the past few weeks, the list of companies that have tendered bid for 9mobile includes India’s Bharti Airtel, operating as Airtel in Nigeria; Dangote Group’s telecoms business unit, Alheri Engineering Limited, which has the backing of U.S.-based Blackstone Group with an investment portfolio of $378 billion and a Nigerian subsidiary called the Black Rhino Group.
Others are Smile Telecoms Holdings, a South African telecommunications group with subsidiaries in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda; and Helios Towers, the former owner and operator of the largest telecoms tower network in Nigeria and other countries, before it sold its Nigerian infrastructure to HIS and Teleology Holdings.
Meanwhile, Globacom, Bharti Airtel, Smile Telecoms Holdings, Helios and Teleology Holdings Limited have all been shortlisted as the five bidders still in the running to buy 9mobile, just as two of the shortlisted companies plan a joint venture (JV) to have the strength needed to win.
The companies were selected through a process conducted by Barclays Bank, the financial adviser to the creditor banks, on December 4 after submission of Expression of Interest (EoI) to buy 9mobile.
Formerly known as Etisalat, 9mobile, as Nigeria’s fourth largest telecoms provider with some 18 million active subscribers, ran into financial problem early in the year after missing repayment obligations of a $1.2 billion syndicated loan taken from a consortium of 13 Nigerian banks in 2013. Globacom appears confident to sail through as the only successful bidder.
According to sources conversant with the ongoing buying process, if Glo succeeds in acquiring 9mobile, it will consolidate its position as the most successful player in Nigeria’s telecoms industry and the network to beat in the African telecoms sector.
With its expected winning, Globacom is going to ignite a battle of titans between it and MTN Nigeria as their subscriber base would be at par, making Glo and MTN the two gladiators in the nation’s $70 billion telecoms industry. According to the latest industry data released by the NCC for the month of October, MTN currently has some 50.7 million-subscriber base, while Glo has 37.4 million.
By adding Etisalat’s current 17.1 million subscribers to Globacom’s existing subscribers after takeover of 9mobile, Glo’s subscriber will stand at over 54.5 million subscribers, making Globacom the largest telecoms company in Nigeria.