Confusion has again hit the bid for 9Mobile as the communications sector regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Wednesday said it had ordered fresh due diligence on the preferred bidder selected for the telecom firm.
Last April, Teleology Holdings Limited emerged as the preferred bidder for the troubled telecom company and Smile Telecoms Holdings reserve bidder on the recommendation of Barclays Africa.
Teteology Holdings was said to have made an offer of $500 million, against Smile Telecoms’ $300 million offer. Their status were subject to NCC’s final confirmation.
Teteology is promoted by the pioneer CEO of MTN Nigeria, Adrian Wood, while Smile Telecoms Holdings has operations in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo DR and South Africa.
Both were shortlisted from five bidders that emerged from a list of 16 firms that submitted bids for the telemobile firm to Barclays Bank.
The bidders include Teleology Holdings Limited, Helios Investment Partners; Bharti Airtel, the Indian telecom giant, and Globacom Nigeria.
Others are MTN, Airtel, Nigerian Telecommunications Limited, UK Virgin Mobile and South Africa’s Vodacom. BUA Group, Morning Side Capital Partners, Obot Etiebet & Co, Blackstone Private Equity, Hamilton Limited and George International Limited.
NCC spokesperson, Tony Ojobo, had confirmed Teleology had made the initial payment of 10 per cent of the bid offer for 9Mobile ($50million).
He said the preferred bidder would pay the balance within 90 days in line with the approved bid guidelines.
Failure to pay the remaining $450 milion on schedule, he said, would attract sanctions, including the revocation of the preferred bidder’s status and the position reverted to the reserved bidder, Smile Communications.
The deadline for the payment of the balance of $450 million lapsed sometime in July.
The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Umar Danbatta, said the fresh due diligence ordered by the commission would help determine whether Teleology Holdings has the requisite technical competence and financial capacity to successfully operate the troubled telecommunications firm.
The NCC boss told reporters in Abuja the acquisition of 9Mobile has stuttered since the beginning of the year because the commission was determined to ensure the preferred bidder fulfilled all necessary conditions before being allowed to take over the firm.
“There are issues (yet to be resolved),” he said. “We are almost done with sorting out those issues. We are presently conducting another round of due diligence on Teleology to examine and consequently determine whether they really have the technical wherewithal and financial capability to run the company effectively.”
He said after the exercise, the commission would submit the report of its findings to its Board of Directors for the final approval.
This is not the first time confusion would trail the process to sale the company after Mubadala Development Company, Etisalat’s largest shareholder, pulled out of the company June 2017.
The NCC and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had intervened to supervise the bid process and ensure a successful emergence of a new operator.
The two regulatory authorities appointed Barclays Africa as the transaction financial adviser to the bid with a mandate to conclude the sale by December 31, 2017.
However, the bid process has continued to roll from one crisis to the other since last year.