The interim board of 9mobile may have finally settled for Teleology Holdings Limited as the preferred bidder for 9mobile, the country’s fourth-largest mobile network, according to an insider source.
Teleology Holdings Limited, promoted by Adrian Wood, the pioneer Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria, was one of the shortlisted five investors bidding for 9mobile.
According to the source, which is close to the interim board of 9mobile, Barclays Africa, the financial adviser managing the sales of 9mobile had since submitted its recommendation to the board, which met yesterday to review the recommendation. THISDAY gathered that the board decided to settle with Teleology Holdings Limited, based on the recommendation of the financial adviser.
The preferred bidder is therefore expected to make payment within a given period, to take full possession of the telecoms company.
Although Spectrum Wireless Communication has obtained a court injunction stopping the sale of 9mobile, claiming that it invested over $35 million in the telecoms company, and that the repayment was not factored into the planned sale of 9mobile, the source said the case has been appealed.
According to the source, once a case has been appealed, all parties involved must maintain the status quo. “The status quo, which is the existing state of affairs, means that the sale of 9mobile will continue until the Appeal Court passes its judgment,” the source said.
This development to settle for Teleology Holdings Limited may have brought to an end the acquisition process supervised by Barclays Africa since last year.
Teleology emerged as the new owner of 9mobile ahead of Smile Communications, which had been the only other bidders in the final round of the takeover bid that made financial commitment, out of the shortlisted five.
Though 16 bidders had indicated interest in acquiring the mobile network, only five were shortlisted before the number was further reduced to three.
While Globacom and Helios failed to back their technical bids with concrete financial bids, Airtel later pulled out of the process, leaving just Teleology and Smile Communications.
Teleology, a private equity firm with an investment portfolio of $11bn, offered more than $500 million to acquire the mobile network while Smile Communication offered about $300 million.
There are however strong indications that the owners of Teleology may have reached out to Matthew Wilshere, ex-CEO of Etisalat, who had joined Mike Adenuga’s Conoil as Managing Director but who will likely resign next week in preparation to take up the mantle at 9mobile again, based on his sterling performance when he was CEO of Etisalat Nigeria, the initial name of the telecoms company, before it rebranded to 9mobile.
The NCC and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had in 2017 appointed an Interim Board and Management to run the affairs of 9mobile, Nigeria’s most innovative telecommunications company, pending the conclusion of its acquisition by a new owner.
A source close to the consortium of banks disclosed to THISDAY that, “this is a positive development for the Nigerian telecommunications sector and for 9mobile. This is indeed a positive signal to the International investment community that solutions can always be found to financial crisis. That was why for some of us, the ill-intentioned story which went out in the last few days about 9mobile opting for bankruptcy was just sheer bunkum to please a bidder who opted out of the process.”
He said: “The NCC took the interest of investors, subscribers, and employees of 9mobile into consideration in ensuring a seamless and transparent process. There would have been a serious problem if 9mobile had gone under, especially with the job of over 2,000 Nigerians on the line. This would also have been a disincentive for the much needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). We commend all participants in the process and with the emergence of Teleology, we are sure 9mobile is in safe hands.”
A staff of 9mobile who spoke on condition of anonymity, “this news is like a double whopper burger for us. I can tell you there is an air of jubilation amongst the staff of 9mobile now. We did not want any of the existing operators to acquire 9mobile as they would end up sacking people and throwing people into the unemployment market under the guise of right sizing the business.”
Another staff of the company who operates from its Banana Island Office, who doesn’t want her name in print said, the credit for this smooth process of securing new investors must also go to Boye Olusanya who leveraged his past experience to see the process through. “Some of us did not fail to observe that, even during the investment marketing process, 9mobile never took its eyes off the ball by providing quality data, voice services, browsing, video gaming and other packages to its subscribers,” she observed. .
“Boye, his Vice President Marketing and the entire team were operating like an ambidextrous business leaders who were searching for new investors on one hand and working with the other hand to impress 9mobile subscribers with new offerings,” she further said.
9mobile, it was gathered, entered into several strategic partnerships in furtherance of its commitment to improved customer experience and innovative services even during the transition phase. This, according to THISDAY sources may have improved the fortunes of the company as Teleology and Smile were said to have been impressed with the company’s cash flow, a factor which convinced them that paying off the debt to the consortium of banks was possible.
The NCC is expected to make a formal announcement soon on the emergence of the Teleology as the new owners of 9mobile.