Contrary to insinuations that the consortium of 13 banks involved in the Etisalat $1.2 billion loan deal have taken over the telecoms company, Nigeria's telecoms regulator and central bank governor are neck deep in the issue between the borrower and the lenders to forestall sending wrong signals to the investment community and the outside world in general.
The issue which according to sources close to the business, bothers on debt restructuring rather than outright default, hence the commission and the CBN on Thursday took steps to help Etisalat Nigeria resolve the debt restructuring talks with its lenders.
To press for its call for restructuring, sources claimed Etisalat’s Abu-Dhabi based parent company, Emirates Telecommunications Group had previously given notice to its Nigerian lenders that it would miss a payment on the $1.2 billion loan in February owing to restructuring issues. The miss triggered debt talks starting 10 days ago but the two sides have not been able to reach a compromise.
The consortium of 13 banks had asked Etisalat to convert loans from its parent into equity and inject fresh capital into its Nigerian unit.
Picking holes in the stories of alleged “take-over” making the rounds in the press, an investment analyst familiar with the business explained that a take-over is always a last resort. According to him, the negotiation options have to be thoroughly explored, the courts (Federal High Courts) are also there to mediate in such issues, when these processes are duly followed without a resolution, the process of appointment of a receivership is follows if there is no mutually acceptable solution.
In any case, the rumoured “take-over” does not benefit anyone and its effects on the investment community could be debilitating, no one has asked if there if the court option has been explored by either of the sides, the source lamented.
In line with this, the NCC in a statement expressed concern about the negative impact the issue could have on Etisalat subscribers and the industry, and wanted to prevent a possible takeover of Etisalat by the banks.
NCC was worried about the fate of the over 20 million Etisalat subscribers and the wrong signals this may send to potential investors in the telecom industry," the statement reads in part.
NCC Chairman, Umar Danbatta and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele were said to be in agreement that Etisalat Nigeria and the banks should meet yet again on Friday to reach a mutual compromise.
Emirates Telecommunications Group (Etisalat) owns a 40 percent stake in its Nigerian affiliate, which accounted for around 3.7 percent of the group's revenue in 2013.
Etisalat Nigeria signed a $1.2 billion medium-term facility with 13 Nigerian banks in 2013, which it used to refinance an existing $650 million loan and fund a modernisation of its network.
Banks involved in the loan deal include: Zenith Bank, GT Bank, First Bank, UBA, Fidelity Bank, Access Bank, Ecobank, FCMB, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Union Bank.
With additional agency reports