By Oluwatobi Opusunju and Amole Olatunde
Etisalat Nigeria is born again as 9Mobile even as it hunts for fresh financing and future in offshore investors to tame its trouble times. While its interim management wrestles with the debt overhang and rebranding efforts, there are off the radar hints on its stakeholders opening talks with offshore companies that include French telco, Orange and South African telecoms group Vodacom.
“9Mobile is eager for fresh funding, new technical partners and new owners,” an insider tells IT Edge News in Lagos None of the telecommunications companies is confirming or refuting this. A senior official of Vodacom told IT Edge News from Johannesburg, that “Nigeria still is of significant interest to us and our partners. We are not ruling out possible needs to explore opportunities as they arise.”
Nigeria telecom market of some 154 million telephone subscribers still holds great attractions despite a flailing economy, high inflation and falling ARPU.
With over N541 billion debts to pay a consortium of banks that include Access Bank PLC, Zenith Bank, GTBank, FirstBank and other foreign banks, the rebranded telco posed a new challenge to Nigerian financial and telecoms regulatory authorities . Their interventions helped to prevent a major stricture that could have erased jobs and the integrity of the two sectors.
Both the Central Bank of Nigeria and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said they are still studying the situation. The NCC has assured that there would be no negative impact on subscribers and on jobs.