By Olabisi Olaleye with Agency report
The 13-bank consortium that raised about $1.2 billion for Etisalat Nigeria Limited (now 9mobile) in 2013 may have picked Barclays Bank to get new investors for the debt-laden firm, following their suspected link with Citigroup and Standard Bank earlier chosen for the role.
Barclays was said to have started work on the mandate and is in the process of setting up a database for prospective investors to conduct due diligence, they said.
Sources close to the deal revealed yesterday that the lenders decided against them due to their previous links with 9mobile. Standard’s local unit, Stanbic IBTC Bank, is among the group of lenders to 9mobile, while Citi had advised the telecom company, formerly known as Etisalat Nigeria, in the past.
Recall that Etisalat Nigeria took out a $1.2 billion syndicated loan from a group of 13 local banks but failed to make repayments this year, due to a currency crisis and recession in Nigeria.
This prompted the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to intervene to save the company from collapse and prevent creditors from putting it into receivership, leading to management and board changes as well as the name change to 9mobile.
The crisis also forced the telecoms company’s one-time parent Etisalat to terminate its management agreement with its Nigerian business to surrender its 45 per cent stake to a trustee following CBN’s intervention.
9mobile’s CEO, Boye Olusanya, has said he is focused on getting the telecoms company back on track to make a profit, while working on the paperwork to eventually raise new capital, adding the company was open to new investors.
Lenders have put a freeze on collecting the principal and interest payments on the syndicate loan pending new investors, in order to help the company survive, the sources told Reuters.
They have also held back on taking provisions for the syndicated loan and agreed to extend it after the regulatory intervention in July.
The sources said the central bank had asked the lenders to take a five percent provision on the loan as part of their-quarter results due this month.
Some lenders, such as Zenith Bank, UBA , and Access Bank, have made already provisions to cover direct lending to 9mobile outside the syndicated loan.
9mobile has 20 million subscribers with a 14 percent share of the Nigerian market. South Africa’s MTN is the market leader with 47 percent, Nigeria’s Globacom has 20 percent and Bharti Airtel’s local subsidiary has 19 per cent.