The federal government of Nigeria has approved an extension for the sale of ailing incumbent telco Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) and its mobile unit M-Tel to a new core investor, local newspaper The Guardian reports. Under the new arrangement, prospective bidders now have until 22 January 2010 to submit their financial and technical bids for the two operators. The National Council on Privatisation (NCP) has also given the go-ahead for NGN3 billion (USD19.8 million) to be borrowed from the accounts of NITEL’s pension fund to pay employees’ salaries and outstanding rent for the telco’s offices. The payment of staff wages will be staggered into three tranches covering five months’ of salaries, while the remaining arrears of twelve months will be paid from the proceeds of the sale of NITEL and M-Tel.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the federal government announced it was offering a 51% stake in NITEL and 100% of its mobile unit in March 2009 after previous majority shareholder Transcorp divested its stake a month earlier. The original deadline for the submission of technical and financial bids was 2 October but this was pushed back to 26 October due to the complexity of the process. 14 companies have reportedly expressed an interest in NITEL, including Etisalat Nigeria, MTNL of India, Globacom, MTN Nigeria, Telefonica of Spain and MetroPCS Communications.