The government of Nigeria has extended the deadline for the submission of bids for a majority stake in incumbent fixed line operator Nigerian Telecommunications Company (NITEL) and its mobile unit M-Tel, according to Reuters. Local firm Transnational Corporation (Transcorp), which announced that it was divesting part of its 51% shareholding in NITEL and 100% in M-Tel in February 2009, originally set the deadline for 4 May, but the date has since been extended to 31 May. Nigeria has also reviewed requirements for the pre-qualification of interested investors, announcing that the government is now willing to sell the two units separately or as a combined entity, instead of the previous combined offer. Prospective investors are now required to have a minimum of 1.2 million fixed or mobile lines instead of the two million previously stated, while a consortium must include a reputable operator that would hold at least a 20% equity post-privatisation.
According to TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the federal government sold it 51% stake in NITEL to Transcorp for USD750 million in November 2006, retaining a 49% interest. Since then the telco’s 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 in late March the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) announced it was offering a 51% stake in the fixed line operator and 100% of its mobile unit, 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.’