The Nigerian government has invited bids for a majority stake in state-owned former telecoms monopoly Nigerian Telecommunications Company (NITEL), according to Reuters. The Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) has announced it is offering a 51% stake in the fixed line operator and 100% of its mobile unit M-Tel, adding: ‘The federal government and Transcorp have agreed to select a new core investor who would have the requisite operational, managerial, technical and financial resources to take over NITEL and M-Tel.’ CommsUpdate reported last week that prospective investors must be reputable telecoms operators with experience in the sector, must possess at least two million fixed or GSM lines, experience of expanding fixed and mobile networks and a minimum net worth of USD500 million. Furthermore, if the prospective investor is a consortium, the operator must own at least 51% equity in the bidding vehicle. The deadline for bids is 4 May 2009.
The federal government sold it 51% stake in NITEL to Transcorp for USD750 million in November 2006, retaining a 49% interest. Since then the telcos initial 500,000 fixed lines in service have dropped to about 45,000, its workforce has declined from 12,000 to just 2,000 and the company is USD500 million in debt. In February 2009 Transcorp agreed to divest part of its shareholding in the telco and the sale process will happen gradually over the next six months.