Bharti Airtel reportedly pulls out of 9mobile acquisition

Bharti Airtel reportedly pulls out of 9mobile acquisition

There are unconfirmed reports that Bharti Airtel, owners of Airtel Nigeria has pulled out of 9mobile acquisition bid.

According to TheCable.ng, a local news website, the country’s third-largest mobile carrier decided to pull out after several parts of the bid process are shrouded in a complex web of secrecy.

Citing unconfirmed sources, the website claimed that while Teleology Holdings and Smile Telecoms made bids of $500 million and $300 million respectively, Globacom and Helios Investment Partners LLP did not make any offer for 9mobile formerly called Etisalat Nigeria.

While Airtel has not officially commented on the matter, the website cited a source who gave a hint as to why the third largest carrier with over 30 million subscribers might have pulled the plug.

“Airtel believes too many things are hidden about the health of 9mobile, and that it is too risky for anyone to buy the company. Things became compounded with the court case by Spectrum Wireless. Remember  the Strive Masiyiwa case over the ownership of Econet which hurt the company for a long time,” the source said.

The latest development might further reveal the complexity behind the acquisition, ownership and health of 9mobile.

It would be recalled that last week, a Federal High Court in Lagos had nullified the appointment of a new board and management of the company. The ruling was awarded in favour of Spectrum Wireless, a major shareholder in the company that owned the telecom license used by Emerging Markets Telecommunications Service, EMTS.

Spectrum Wireless disclosed that it instituted the lawsuit after it was excluded in the constitution of the company’s interim management fearing that its investment in the company might be lost.

Neither the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC (the bodies that midwived the new management) have commented on the status of the acquisition process.

As the third largest carrier, 9mobile has about 20 million subscribers but its potential has now been pegged by its heavy indebtedness to the tune of $1.2 billion it owes to more 12 local lenders and international partners.