The wait and intrigues are over, Etisalat Nigeria has rebranded its identity to 9Mobile Telecom. The move finally puts an end to the uncertainty concerning its future.
A clear backtrack
The latest development is a sharp contrast to the earlier stance of the company over the last few days. A statement released by Ibrahim Dikko, spokesperson for Etisalat said:
Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Ltd. (EMTS), trading as Etisalat Nigeria hereby assures its customers and other stakeholders that Etisalat Group’s reported withdrawal of the right to the continued use of the Etisalat brand in Nigeria by EMTS does not in any way imply discontinuation of our business as Nigeria’s fourth largest mobile service provider.
Contrary to certain misleading statements in the press about our experience centres and outlets being closed, we wish to state that all Etisalat offices, Experience Centres and outlets across Nigeria are in full operation and are providing services including customer care services on 24/7 basis.
Etisalat Nigeria also reiterates its unwavering commitment to delivery of quality services and commitment to continuously empowering all segments of Nigeria through the development and roll-out of innovative products, services and solutions that help individuals, businesses and organisations solve their everyday problems.
Whilst we are intensifying efforts aimed at reaching full closure on ongoing discussions with regards the transition phase, we want to assure that our customers and stakeholders will be duly informed as soon as these are concluded, including details of a rebranding should that become necessary.
We thank all our customers, stakeholders and the media for their unalloyed support to the company.
Recalled that Etisalat Group had requested for a withdrawal of the right to the continued use of Etisalat brand in Nigeria by EMTS.
The name change finally marks the end of Etisalat UAE and state-owned investment fund, Mubadala Development Company PSJC who formerly held 40% and 45% stake respectively in the company.
What will be the focus of the new company?
There are clear indications on how the company will be conducting its affairs further, Boye Olusanya, the new chief executive heading Nigeria’s fourth largest mobile carrier said Etisalat Nigeria, now 9Mobile Telecom will be focused on making profit and meeting its loan obligations.
Boye Olusanya said “Our mandate is to make sure the business runs as profitably as it can. What is most important now is to … ensure that the business runs and meets its obligations”.
The company has been in the mid of a raging storm after it defaulted in the payment of its loan obligations to 13 local lenders and international banks.
Etisalat is Nigeria’s fourth largest carrier out of four other carriers who are also feeling the impact of NIgeria’s first recession in 20 years. The company was formerly owned by Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Company PSJC with 45% stake and Etisalat UAE with 40% stake. The two companies have exited after the repayment negotiations failed.
Boye Olusanya said, “Once we’ve gotten ourselves to where certain decisions are made and the structure and form of the business are formed then maybe we would look at a capital raising structure that would be suitable for the nature of how the business will be run”.
“Obviously if it’s possible to do it tomorrow we will do it, because that enhances the ability of this business to roll-out quickly, to get more subscribers, which is what everybody wants”.
He revealed that “We’re still in negotiations with Etisalat over the use of the brand name”. Earlier this week, Etisalat International, Hatem Dowidar said the company only has about three weeks to phase out the use of the Etisalat brand name and that it has terminated management and technical support with the local unit.
Who owns 9Mobile Telecom?
There are further confusion as to who actually holds majority stake in 9Mobile Telecom.
Last week, PageOne.ng reported that Dangote Industries is said to have acquired 60% stake in Etisalat Nigeria. This is based on unconfirmed but reliable sources in Nigeria’s financial services sector.
Dangote Industries is owned by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote with investment across various sectors of Nigeria and Africa’s economy.
According to the sources who pleaded not to be named, French and one of the major mobile carriers in Africa, Orange Telecom as well as Vodafone are in high-level discussions to take up the remaining 40% stake in Etisalat Nigeria.
The rumoured acquisition might further lend credence to suspicion about the pedigree of the newly constituted board of directors for Etisalat Nigeria. Funke Ighodaro, the newly appointed CFO of the mobile carrier was Chief Financial Officer of Tiger Brands Limited from 2011 to 2016. Tiger Brands was taken over by Dangote after Tiger Brands South Africa sold their majority stake back to Dangote in 2016.
Etisalat has not commented on the rumour nor has it issued a statement to deny it. The company has not also issued a definitive statement on the name change.
The company’s financial problem after it defaulted on its USD1.2 billion loan obligations to a consortium of 13 local banks and other international lenders.
Counting the cost
Branding and marketing experts who spoke to PageOne.ng on the name change said the company is likely to spend a fortune on the rebranding bearing in mind the huge cost of undertaking a full-fledged rebranding campaign that requires nationwide reach.
It would be recalled that back then in 2007 when the company started its brand introduction campaigns, the company was reported to have spent close to NGN6 billion towards the following year that led to its national roll out. An advertising expert who craved anonymity said company’s marketing budget for its first three years of operation will offset a major part of its Naira (NGN) loan obligations.
An analyst with close links to the company’s marketing operation said the 9Mobile Telecom would rather use a lean marketing campaign while using public relations and below-the-line, activities to boost sales and retain customers ‘killing two birds with one stone’, he said.