New Generation optimistic about meeting NITEL payment deadline

25 Nov 2010

Reuters reports that New Generation Telecommunications, the consortium which emerged as the preferred buyer for state-run incumbent telco Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL) in February 2010, has said it is confident it will meet the December deadline to pay a USD750 million bid security for the ailing operator. ‘We are working tirelessly to meet the deadline despite the challenges we are facing,’ said Usman Gumi, managing director of Nigeria’s GiCell Wireless, a member of the New Generation consortium. Last month President Goodluck Jonathon approved the consortium’s bid of USD2.5 billion for a 75% stake in NITEL and its mobile arm M-Tel, after an eight month delay. New Generation – which comprises Minerva Group of Dubai, GiCell Wireless and technical partner China Unicom – was asked to pay a bid security of USD750 million within ten days of 25 October, and was given 60 days to pay the remaining USD1.75 billion. However, earlier this month GiCell requested a 30-day extension, after the consortium failed to come up with the funds in time. Gumi said that New Generation had missed the deadline because some of the consortium’s financial partners had developed ‘cold feet’ since the firm was announced as the winning bidder back in February.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the government’s delay in approving the bid was caused by initial confusion about China Unicom’s involvement in the consortium, which led to criticism that the process had been marred by irregularities and a lack of transparency. Rather than approving the bid, the National Council of Privatisation (NCP) opted to inaugurate a committee to undertake further due diligence on the bidders of NITEL. In June 2010 the panel recommended that the deal be approved.

Nigeria, ntel (formerly NITEL/M-Tel)