MTN, Bharti Airtel and Ntel are among 16 firms that formally submitted interest in buying Nigeria’s 9mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria.
As previously reported Etisalat ran into trouble with the Nigerian banks having taken loans of $1.2 billion for network upgrade and expansion. Etisalat Nigeria subsequently re-branded to become 9Mobile after the withdrawal of Abu-Dhabi-based, Etisalat Group as a shareholder.
According to ThisDay, Africell with operations in DRC, Gambia, Uganda and Sierra Leone, is on the list, as is Bua Group, a local diversified business with a stake in a wide range of sectors.
Morning Side Capital Partners and Blackstone Private Equity also submitted ‘expressions of interest’. Vietnam-based Viettel is also in the running.
The companies will now conduct due diligence and prepare to submit bids. 9mobile CEO Boye Olusanya said he wants to get the operator on track to make a profit and raise new capital, adding it was open to new investors.
Last month the thirteen banks to whom 9mobile owes money said they are trying to ensure a smooth sale of the operator by the end of the year. According to GSMA Intelligence, 9mobile has around a 13 per cent share of Nigeria’s mobile market, behind MTN, Glo Mobile and Airtel.