At least, about five million Nigerians belonging to the embattled, financially-distressed telecoms operator, 9mobile, have dumped the network in the last 12 months as the search for a new firm to take over it, through a bidding process, progresses, according to reports gathered by Tellforceblog.
According to the data obtained from the Nigerian Communications, this indicates that from about 22 million subscribers, 9mobile has dropped in its subscriber base significantly to 17 million as at November, 2017.
This also crashed the market share of 9mobile from 15 per cent to 12 per cent.
The November data was the latest industry when the active lines on MTN, Glo and Airtel were also put at 51 million; 37 million and 35 million respectively.
Accordingly, MTN market share was 36 per cent; Glo is 26 per cent while Airtel has 24 per cent.
It was gathered that the loss of about 5 million subscribers, ostensibly to river operators by 9mobile, is coming just as it is clear to the subscribers that the $1.2 billion financial crisis 9mobile ran into with a consortium of 13 banks is now heading for a takeover by another company.
â€œI have since dropped my 9mobile line. You know, this is Nigeria and I donâ€™t want to be caught unawares to avoid unnecessary in-service disruption. I practically ported to another network,â€ Bamidele Sam, a 9mobile subscriber, who claimed he had dumped the network, said.
Another subscriber at Ikeja area of Lagos, Titi Charles, said, â€œ9mobile came into the sector fine and started introducing a lot of innovations but when they mismanaged a loan taken and this has made them susceptible to all sorts of mess now. I even learnt that it is now being sold.â€
Interactions with some subscribers, who are still on the network showed that more are still planning to drop the lines and its fate of being bought by a company technically and financially capable of buying it now hangs in the balance.
â€œEverybody is waiting with bated breath and we are hoping that the takeover wonâ€™t result in unfair treatment of subscribers, otherwise more subscribersâ€™, I am sure, would like to port from 9mobile to rival networks or to even drop the line totally,â€ said a banker, Bamise Ojo.
Spokesperson of 9Mobile, Mr. Ibrahim Dikko could not be reached for comments at the time of filing in this report.
9mobile , formerly known as Etisalat Nigeria was taken over in July 2017 following a N541 billion debt overhang.
The development subse-quently forced Mubadala Group, the major investor from the United Arab Emirates, to pull out of Nigeriaâ€™s fourth largest mobile operator as a result of the debt owed to a consortium of 13 banks.
The interventions by the NCC and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), led to the appointment of a new board for the company and the appointment of Barclays Africa to prepare the telco for sale.
Already, five bidders have made the final list of potential buyers: Teleology Holdings Limited, promoted by Adrian Wood, the pioneer CEO of MTN Nigeria; Smile Telecoms Holdings, a telco operating in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo DR and South Africa; and Helios Investment Partners LLP, an investment company.
Others are Bharti Airtel, an Indian telco that owns Airtel Nigeria, and Globacom, the Nigerian company owned by Mike Adenuga Jnr.
While the initial date for the manager of the sale process, Backlays Africa, to submit the binding offers to 9Moble management was initially slated for December, 2017, the date was, however, postponed after a letter written by 9mobile management to NCC management on the need for the postponement of the initial date.
Following that, the NCC wrote the CBN a memo on the need for extension to January 16, 2018 for binding offers to be submitted.
However, the NCC has said contrary to media reports, the announcement of the name of the winner in the ongoing bidding process for the sale of 9mobile wonâ€™t be made on Jan 14, until later days.
The telecoms regulator, in a statement, earlier received by News Direct cleared the air on the ongoing 9Mobile acquisition process being managed by Barclays Africa.
The Commission also explained that contrary to reports, the NCC has not had an â€˜anointedâ€™ preferred bidder, saying it was a mere speculation on the outcome of the ownership transfer process.
The Commission, in the statement signed by its Director Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo, said â€œBarclays Africa remains in full control of the process leading to the emergence of a new owner for the company. Barclays has not authorized any publication on the matter and is obliged to maintain full confidentiality thereon.â€
Ojobo explained that an approval of the request for extension (RfE) of time by the 9Mobile Interim Board was given by the 2 regulators â€“ NCC and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
He said the approval then set the deadline for the receipt of binding offers from the prospective bidders till January 16 2018.
â€œContrary to speculations that a â€œwinnerâ€ will be announced on the same day (i.e. 16th of January 2018), we wish to clarify that Barclays is expected to review the bids received by the deadline and to make recommendations to the 9Mobile Interim Board thereafter.
â€œThe NCC and CBN will be duly notified once the 9Mobile Interim Board accepts Barclaysâ€™ recommendations and a winning bid is determined in accordance with the terms of the exercise. â€œafter this, the winner will now apply to NCC in order to commence the processes for securing the regulatory approvals from the Board of the NCC necessary to give full effect to the transfer rust that the foregoing sufficiently clarifies the position of the transaction and that it lays to rest any apprehensions regarding the unfounded media publications on the sale,â€ he said.