President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria has reportedly chosen the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ option for fixed line incumbent Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL), after the latest attempt to sell the ailing telco was cancelled last month. Local news source THISDAY reports that the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) – the government agency responsible for the telco’s privatisation – has submitted three recommendations on how to deal with NITEL and its wholly owned mobile unit M-Tel. The options include liquidating the company, adopting a willing buyer, willing seller model, and starting the whole sale process again. President Jonathan is said to have favoured the second option as it would be quicker than the other two choices and would have fewer logistical problems. CommsUpdate reported last week that Microfone Telecom Nigeria, an initiative of the Nigerian Capital Development Fund, expressed an interest in taking over the operations of NITEL.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the latest attempt to privatise NITEL was cancelled last month when the reserve bidder, British Virgin Islands-based Omen International, failed to meet the deadline to pay a bid security. Omen was invited to re-register its interest in buying NITEL in March 2011, after preferred buyer New Generation Telecommunications repeatedly missed the payment deadlines for its bid of USD2.5 billion. Omen offered USD956.9 million during the latest attempt to privatise the company, held in February 2010. The government began seeking a buyer for a minimum 75% of NITEL and 100% of M-Tel in July 2009 after previous majority shareholder Transcorp divested its stake earlier in the year.