What Is Stopping the Sale of 9Mobile? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Smile Wants to Make 9Mobile BIG Again, but it may never get the Chance
9mobile logo

Nobody would have expected that the sale of 9mobile would continue to linger with uncertainty for so long. But then again, this is Nigeria. And that makes it not an uncommon event.

It was popularly reported last week, that 9Mobile had gotten a new owner. After making a $500 million bid, it was reported that Teleology Holdings had been chosen as the preferred bidder. That sum was far higher than the second highest bid, a $300 million from Smile Communications.

Teleology is being promoted by Andrian Wood to takeover 9Mobile
Teleology is being promoted by Andrian Wood to takeover 9Mobile

Although the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) did not officially comment on the matter, news went viral that Teleology Holdings had emerged the preferred bidder.

However, it was reported that industry stakeholders did not approve of that deal. They believed that Teleology Holdings lacked both the capacity and a history in the telecom business. The company was seen as not a real one but was set up just for the 9Mobile bidding process.

Airtel and Helios Petition Regulators Over “Irregularities”

In another twist, Airtel and Helios Investment Partners had filed a complaint with regulators about the sale of 9Mobile. The petition was filed on Tuesday, January 30, and sent to the NCC and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Both companies asked regulators in the telecom and banking sectors to review the ongoing sale of 9Mobile.

The petition alleged that there were irregularities, centred around transparency and lack of disclosure on the affairs of the company. The latter issue is the main reason why companies have failed to make informed financial bids.

Airtel Loses Interest in the Sale of 9Mobile

In another report, Airtel has finally opened up about why it quit the bid process. “Airtel is not interested in 9Mobile because it sees little value in the company,” a source disclosed. Another source disclosed that Airtel did not have sufficient information to make an informed bid.

MTN and Airtel Record Customer Growth, as 9Mobile and Glo decline

At the start of the year, Airtel was one of five companies shortlisted to make bids. The telco was seen as one of the prominent bidders. If the sale had gone its way, it would make it the largest voice and data network in the country. But the telco failed to tender its bid before the January 16 deadline and withdrew from the process soon after.

NCC Finally Warns Against Speculations

After days of silence, the NCC has finally issued a statement about the reported sale to Teleology holdings. The NCC warned against relying on speculative reports on the sale process of 9Mobile.

Although the “interim board of 9Mobile is in charge of the bid process, it would submit reports to Barclays Africa, the financial adviser handling the sale of the telecoms company, the NCC and the CBN before any authentic announcement is made”, the NCC said in a statement.

It added that it was yet to receive any report indicating that the bid process had been concluded, or that a preferred bidder had emerged.

Barclays is leading the sale of 9mobile
Barclays Africa is leading the bidding process for the sale of 9mobile

Multiple sources and industry stakeholders have questioned the transparency process of the bid process. And fear that it may compromise the whole process.

Whoever emerges victorious in the sale of 9Mobile, should not have been who has the deepest pockets, at least it shouldn’t be the only thing that matters. The preferred bidder should be one that considers the company’s employees and the long-term stability and growth of the company.

If this fails to happen, then I don’t think 9Mobile would stay in business for a long time.


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