9Mobile Sale: NCC Announces New Guidelines that Could Kill Teleology Holdings’ Bid

The sale of 9Mobile, Nigeria’s fourth largest teleco, is nearly complete. According to reports by Business Day Newspapers, the preferred bidder, Teleology Holdings, has completed the payment of $301 million needed to take over the teleco.

The sale of 9Mobile has reached a new tipping point as the NCC has finally intervened in the matter. The telecom regulatory body has laid down guidelines that should ensure the 9Mobile sale is as transparent as it should be.

In a letter addressed to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, the NCC emphasized that the 9Mobile sale should go to the company that had the technical competency, not just finances. NCC worried that since 9Mobile owed a huge debt to some banks, banks may favour a buyer with deep pockets and not one with technical competency.

In the letter, the NCC identified three considerations to guide the sale of the telco.

Firstly, the regulator emphasized “that whichever company would qualify as successful bidder to take over 9mobile has (must have) the technical competence apart from financial capability to turn round 9mobile and not further compound its problems”.

The NCC said the preferred bidder must have operated a telecom company over the last three to five years. Interestingly too, it noted that the preferred bidder could still be disqualified for lacking this competence even after depositing the non-refundable $50 million.

Secondly, the NCC shared “that the successful bidder should come in with substantial funds (foreign exchange) to sustain the industry not just recycling funds facilities already within the economy.”

And thirdly, the NCC insisted “that the company that will take over should have adequate technical infrastructure on ground.”

Teleology Holdings Bid in Jeopardy

It would be interesting to see how these guidelines take effect in the ongoing 9Mobile sale. Teleology Holdings has already emerged the preferred bidder. And according to This Day, it has till the end of today to pay the non-refundable $50 million.

However, the above guidelines raise a lot of questions about its bid.

The Implications of these Guidelines

For one thing, Teleology Holdings has no history in the telecom sector. Insiders say the company is just a special purpose vehicle for the acquisition of 9Mobile. Its only known telecom links is Adrian Woods, a former MTN Chairman who is being used to lead its bid.

Its lack of telecom experience means it also has no telecom infrastructure in place. Meanwhile this is one guideline the NCC wants the CBN to recognise.

The only competency Teleology can prove is financial. And even that is yet to be proven as it is yet to make the $50 million deposit. It has had over 3 weeks to deposit this fund and has till today to pay up. Taking this long to raise $50 million brings fuels the doubt that it ever paid the initially reported $500 million bid.

So by all indications, Teleology may lose out. In its place could be Smile, a telecom operator that has been a serious contender in the 9Mobile sale bid. The telco has already shown, or rather boasted, about its competence in both technical and financial matters.

Whichever way the process goes, it is in the interest of 9Mobile that the company most competent be selected.


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