The crisis rocking Etisalat Nigeria in recent times may have just taken its worst turn going by latest report by Premium Times.
It was said that the largest shareholder of the company, Mubadala Development Company of United Arab Emirates, has withdrawn its 70 percent stake in the firm. Etisalat Nigeria is the country’s fourth largest telecommunication firm and has been having talks with banks in Nigeria on how to repay a loan it got from them few years ago. Premium Times, relying on information relayed to it by its source, who begged not to be named, said Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi Government-owned investment and development company, has hinted Etisalat Nigeria as well as the Nigerian Telecommunications Commission (NCC) of its decision to quit the firm.
“I can tell you that Mubadala’s withdrawal takes effect from today (Thursday),” one source said, asking not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, Premium Times reports.
It was gathered that the remaining 30 percent stake in Etisalat Nigeria is controlled by Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS, promoted by Mr Hakeem Bello-Osagie, who is the Chairman. The latest development means the board of Etisalat Nigeria might be dissolved, with the creditor banks effectively taking control. Etisalat, which commenced business in Nigeria in 2009, acquired the unified access license, including a mobile license and spectrum in the GSM 1800 and 900 MHZ bands from the NCC in January 2007. The company is rated by the NCC as Nigeria’s fourth largest telecoms operator, with about 21 million subscribers or about 12.9 percent of the telecom market share as at January 2017. MTN takes the lead with 60 million, or 40 percent market share; Globacom, 37million, or 24.6 percent; and Airtel 34.6 million, or 22.8 percent.
“The banks do not want the services of the company to cease,” one of our sources said. “So they are setting up a vehicle to keep whatever remains of Etisalat afloat. The banks may approach the NCC tomorrow or latest next week,” Premium Times said.
Mubadala could not be reached for comments Thursday evening. Repeated telephone calls to its Abu Dhabi headquarters were unanswered. An email enquiry is yet to be responded to as at the time of publishing this report. Also, Chairman of Etisalat, Mr Hakeem Bello-Osagie, did not answer calls made to him by PREMIUM TIMES Thursday. But an official of the company, Seyi Osunfedo, later called back to say she was not aware of the latest action by Mubadala.
“I can’t confirm that information for now,” she said. “As you are aware, discussions have been ongoing for some time now with various authorities to find ways to resolve the crisis. I am not aware that that decision has been taken.” Asked whether Etisalat stands a chance of surviving should the UAE investor fail to rescind its decision to leave, Ms Osunfedo said, “I don’t think there is any difficulty that cannot be surmounted.”
A spokesperson for Access Bank, Mr Abdul Imoyo, did not answer or return multiple calls. He also did not respond to a text message. Also, the spokesperson for the NCC, Mr Tony Ojobo, did not respond to calls. He however responded to a text message, saying he was in a meeting.