9Mobile still profitable, attractive to investors, says CBN chief

By Kokumu Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

One of the two regulators that intervened when Nigeria fourth largest telco, Etisalat now 9Mobile, had issues with its local lenders, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN),  has said the telco remains strong, profitable and has become investors delight.

Governor of the apex bank, Godwin Emefiele spoke while fielding questions from reporters at the end of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting of the CBN in Abuja, said the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), supported by the CBN intervened in the company because of its huge contribution to the nation’s economy.

“Etisalat (9Mobile) employs more than 4,000 workers, with about 20 million subscribers nationwide,’’ Emefiele said.

The CBN governor said the apex bank and NCC could not allow the company to go down because of the negative impact on jobs, which was capable of impacting on the economy.

While expressing delight in the indication of interests by some potential investors in the rescue of the communications company, Emefiele said that the interventions were temporal.

“The intervention is temporal, it should not last more than 90 to180 days. I am gratified that potential investors are taking part,’’ Emefiele said.

He said: “This company, by its activities and operations, has remained strong and we would like to maintain this. The intervention through the institutionalisation of an interim board aided by the regulators is temporary and our plan is that this should not take maximum 90-180 days. The company advisers have been appointed to midwife a process for a major investor to intervene in the company and take it over.”

The CBN governor said there has been a “surge by potential investors who have written to show interest in Etisalat (9Mobile). So what will happen is that this interest will be eventually made open. The advisers will advertise for RFP, they will call for RFP, everybody will go into the data room, do their due diligence and after that, the best person will win.”

Speaking on the decision of the regulators to keep the telco going, Emefiele said a lot of people thought the revenue of the telco was going to drop drastically and that there was going to be loss of its subscribers, arguing that this has not happened.

 “The intervention has been positive, Etisalat (9Mobile) has sustained its subscriber base, its 4000+ staff have continued their work and indeed revenue for the month of June which was seen to be the most tumultuous for the company had remained stable at least at N16 billion monthly.

 “Etisalat (9Mobile) is one of the four biggest telecoms company in Nigeria, with subscriber base of over 20 million with a very robust revenue base, employs over 4000 people and if you understand the likely impact of any adverse negative consequences on Etisalat on the lives of those 4000 people indirectly even more than 4000 people, the fact that there are 20 million subscribers that receive the services of Etisalat (9Mobile), it is important that we should not just allow any creditor who feels advantaged to take a decision that hurts other important stakeholders and creditors that operate within Etisalat ((9Mobile).

 “The NCC and CBN observed that activities and attempts by some top creditors was going to lead to a dismemberment of that company and we thought we could not allow 20 million subscribers to be running around without services and we could not allow 4000 or more staff of the company to just run in disarray because something wrong had happened.”

“That is the reason that the NCC supported by the CBN decided to say ‘please gentlemen we understand all your interests in this company either you’re a creditor or service provider, let’s take things easy so it will not hurt the interests of others that also have interest in this company.’ That’s the reason NCC supported by the CBN intervened,” he said.

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