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ABUJA, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Nigerian regulators have set a
Jan. 16 deadline for receipt of binding offers from prospective
bidders to acquire debt-laden telecom firm 9mobile, the telecoms
regulator said on Thursday.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) alongside the
central bank approved the deadline after 9mobile's board
requested a time extension, the NCC said.
It added that Barclays Africa will review bids submitted
before the deadline and make recommendations to 9mobile.
Nigerian lenders picked Barclays Africa to try to
find new investors for 9mobile after banks took over the
telecoms firm, formerly called Etisalat Nigeria, for defaulting
on its loan.
"The winner will now apply to NCC in order to commence the
processes for securing the regulatory approvals ... to give full
effect to the transfer," the regulator said in a statement.
Etisalat Nigeria took out a $1.2 billion syndicated loan
from a group of 13 local banks but struggled to make repayments
due to a currency crisis and recession in Nigeria last year.
The Nigerian central bank then intervened to save the
company from collapse and prevent creditors from putting it into
receivership, leading to a change in its board and management,
as well as the new name 9mobile.
The crisis forced the telecoms company's one-time parent
Etisalat to terminate its management agreement with
its Nigerian business and surrender its 45 percent stake to a
trustee following the central bank intervention.
Private equity firm Helios Investment Partners has submitted
a bid to acquire 9mobile. Nigeria's Globacom and Bharti Airtel's
local subsidiary have also submitted bids, sources
Since the debt issue, 9mobile, the country's fourth biggest
operator, has lost subscribers. In October its total number of
users had fallen to 17.1 million, giving it a 12.2 percent
market share, from 20 million subscribers with a 14 percent
share earlier this year, the telecoms regulator said.
South Africa's MTN, the market leader has 36.1
(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha,
editing by David Evans)
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