There are strong indications that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator, may not issue operational licence to the preferred bidder of 9mobile as announced by Barclays Africa, the financial adviser handling the sale of the telecoms company should the preferred bidder fall short of the technical know how required to manage 9mobile.
This was made abundantly clear in a letter written by NCC to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, stating its position on the ongoing sale of 9mobile.
NCC made its position clear in a letter it wrote to the CBN dated March 16, 2018.
In the letter, which was signed by the Chairman, NCC Governing Board, Senator, Olabiyi Durojaiye, the telecoms industry regulator insisted that the preferred bidder must show evidence of technical expertise of managing a national telecoms company in the last three to five years, aside the financial competence, and vowed not to issue an operational licence to any preferred bidder that lacks such competences, even after the company meets the 21-day window given it to pay the non-refundable cash deposit of $50 million.
Teleology Holdings, the preferred bidder selected for the acquisition of 9mobile, has up till today to pay the non-refundable $50 million cash deposit.
Smile Telecoms Holdings had expressed its dissatisfaction over the selection of the preferred bidder and the reserve bidder by Barclays Africa.
Of particular concern to Smile Telecoms Holdings, is the fact that the selection of the preferred bidder was announced before the stated deadline of February 26, 2018 as set out in the process letter.
Smile Telecoms Holdings therefore requested Barclays, to as a matter of fairness and urgency, provide a practicable, verifiable and preferably third-party authenticated proof that the party that has been selected as the preferred bidder has indeed satisfied all the conditions precedent to that selection.
Giving reasons why it will not issue operational licence to any preferred bidder who falls short of the required technical competence to manage 9mobile, NCC said while the banks are concerned about recouping their money from 9mobile, the telecoms regulator is concerned about sustainability and continuity of 9mobile, after the $1.2 billion loan must have been paid to the 13 local banks, who are the loan creditors to 9mobile.
In its letter, NCC highlighted four major points, which state that whichever company qualifies as the successful bidder to take over 9mobile must have the technical competence apart from the financial capability to turn around 9mobile and not further compound its problems.
It also highlighted that the successful bidder should come with substantial funds (FOREX) to sustain the industry not just recycling funds facilities already within the economy.
NCC also said the company that would take over should have adequate technical infrastructure on the ground as it appears that the creditor banks have only focused essentially on repayment of outstanding loans, while the interest of the commission is the continuity of the company for the betterment of the telecoms industry, subscribers, the labour force and the the interest of Nigeria as a whole.
“The stand of the telecoms regulator is that NCC Board will not allow what happened to Etisalat to repeat itself. Therefore, the board will scrutinise the technical capability and pedigree of whatever company/companies are recommended as preferred bidders as regards their records in the immediate past three to five years before any of them is considered qualified to be issued licence,” NCC said in its letter to CBN.