Hakeem Bello-Osagie quits as Etisalat chairman

Embattled  Chairman of Etisalat Nigeria Limited, Hakeem Bello-Osagie,  resigned his position yesterday amidst the $1.2billion debt crisis facing the company. The resignation takes immediate effect. An official  statement last night said the resignation followed “the approval of a restructuring plan for the telecommunications firm.”

Mr. Bello-Osagie, a former Chairman of the United Bank for Africa (UBA), was,until yesterday, the only surviving shareholder in the  mobile operator after six other directors turned in their resignation letters earlier in the week. Their action was aimed at absolving  themselves of any criminal liabilities should the loan repayment impasse move to the courts. He was the promoter of Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS) which controlled 15 per cent of the equity holding of the company His resignation followed the withdrawal, two weeks ago, of the company’s major shareholder, Emirates Telecommunications Group Company, which announced the decision to quit effective June 15, 2017.

The Nation gathered yesterday that Orange Telecom and Vodafone were  strongly pushing to acquire the stakes offloaded by  United Arab Emirates-based Etisalat Group which has exited the business in the country. Five companies were said to have initially  indicated interest to buy over the shares of the company, but  only Orange and Vodafone had ,last night, demonstrated that they have what it  takes to acquire the shares of the telco. A well placed source  said  discussion with the two companies is  at advanced stages with only the restructuring of the over N370 billion debt  the major snag. The six Mubadala and Etisalat Group-appointed Non-executive Directors (NeDs), from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), had resigned, following Emirates Telecoms Group Company’s (Etisalat Group) reporting disclosure on the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange that it was transferring 45 per cent of its stake and 25 per cent of its preference shares in its Nigerian subsidiary to United Capital Trustees Limited, the legal representative of the lending banks. Other shareholders of Etisalat Nigeria include Mubadala Development Company with a 40 per cent stake and Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS), representing the Nigerian shareholders, with 15 per cent. Following the collapse of talks between the lenders, there were speculations that the lenders were moving to take-over the telco but the lenders denied making such. Worried by this development, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which had earlier intervened in the rift, were supposed to meet with the lenders and the telco at the weekend but it was not clear if the meeting held.