N541bn Debt: Access, GTB, Others Take Over Etisalat Nigeria

N541bn Debt: Access, GTB, Others Take Over Etisalat Nigeria

The filing revealed that a consortium of banks, led by Access Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) and Zenith Bank, have effectively taken over the struggling telecom company, Nigeria's fourth largest network operator.

The take over which took effect on June 15 is the fall out of an impasse over a $1.72 billion (about N541.8 billion) debt, owed by the company.

EMTS, promoted by a former chairman of the United Bank for Africa, UBA, Hakeem Bello-Osagie, was controlling 30 per cent stake in the company.

EMTS Holdings BV (which is incorporated in the Netherlands) has until June 23, 2017 to turn over all of Etisalat Nigeria's shares to United Capital Trustees Limited, the holding company for the consortium of banks.

But, yesterday morning, Etisalat of the UAE, which now holds 45 per cent of Etisalat Nigeria announced at the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange that attempts to stave off the company's takeover have proved abortive.

Etisalat Nigeria had been in talks with the banks to restructure the N541billion loan after missing repayments but those discussions failed to produce an agreement on restructuring the debt, Etisalat said in a statement.

Reuters quoted an official of Etisalat Nigeria as saying that discussions with the group of Nigerian commercial lenders are ongoing to find a "non-disruptive" solution to the debt.

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EMTS Holding BV which was established in the Netherlands, has up to June 23 to transfer of 100 per cent of the company's shares in Etisalat to the United Capital Trustees Limited, the legal representative of the consortium of banks.

Etisalat Nigeria has been under pressure over the $1.72 billion (about N541.8 billion) loan since 2016.

"Etisalat Nigeria can now confirm the first stage of this has begun with a change in shareholding which was announced to the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange this morning".

The telecom company said discussions were on-going regarding its trading name, which may have to change as a result of the shareholding changes.

But the intervention of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and its financial sector counterpart, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) succeeded in persuading the banks to rethink their threat and give Etisalat a chance to renegotiate the loan's repayment schedule.

Ojobo said: "In view of the recent development, NCC wishes to reassure all stakeholders in the telecoms sector in particular the subscribers on the Etisalat network that the Commission will ensure that the integrity of Etisalat network is not compromised".

Etisalat Nigeria has 20 million subscribers, according to NCC, making it the country's number four mobile operator with a 14 per cent market share.

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