Contrary to reports making the rounds that the date for the planned sale of 9mobile has been shifted from January 16 to February 16, 2018, the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Mr. Sunday Dare, said there would be no shifting of date, insisting that the sale must be concluded January 16 this year, and 9mobile will be handed over to its new owner on that same date.
Dare who spoke to THISDAY in a telephone conversation, said NCC was not prepared to shift the date any further.
Barclays Africa, the financial adviser handling the sale of 9mobile, had the initial mandate of December 31, 2017 to conclude the sale of 9mobile and hand it over to its new owners, but citing the risk posed by the 2017 year-end deadline for submission of bidding offers by prospective bidders for the purchase of 9mobile, the telecoms company wrote to the Central Bank of Nigeria and the NCC, asking for extension of date from December 31, 2017, to January 16, 2018, and it was approved.
Barclays Africa had since last year, shortlisted the final five firms that are currently bidding to acquire 9mobile.
The final five include Teleology Holdings Limited, promoted by Adrian Wood, the pioneer CEO of MTN Nigeria; Smile Telecoms Holdings, with operations in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo DR and South Africa; Helios Investment Partners; Bharti Airtel and Globacom, the telecoms company owned and operated by a Nigerian, Mike Adenuga Jnr.
But contrary to the views of industry stakeholders who are kicking against the planned idea muted by four local operators, out of the five shortlisted firms, that are currently bidding to acquire 9mobile, to form an alliance that would help them create a formidable single platform to win the race, Dare said consolidation would be in the best interest of the industry, explaining that it would play a key role in determining who finally gets to buy the nation’s fourth largest operator.
“Nigeria can learn a lot from the Indian telecom experience of consolidation and market competition in the development of the telecom market. The consumer in India now enjoys lots of benefits and cheap data,” he said.
The stakeholders are clamouring for individual firm bidding process that will allow the foreign investor among them, have the opportunity of injecting fresh funds from Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), into the Nigerian telecoms sector.
But the consolidation option being pursued by NCC means either Airtel or Globacom would become the largest operator at the end of the 9mobile sale exercise, should they consolidate to acquire 9mobile.
Glo is currently the second largest operator with 37 million voice and 26.8 million internet subscribers, according to the October 2017 statistics from NCC.
If it acquires 9mobile, it will immediately become the biggest network by adding 17 million to voice and 11.5 million to internet subscription base.
Combined, the new entity’s 54 million voice lines and 38.3 million internet subscriptions will surpass MTN Nigeria’s 50.7 million and 32.5 million respectively.
Airtel, meanwhile, would automatically grow from being number three to number one by increasing its numbers to 52 million for voice and 33.5 million for internet if it is the preferred bidder.