Virgin Group and Vodacom are the latest telecoms groups to be named as potential buyers for Nigerian cellco Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS), following Etisalat Group’s decision to pull out of the business. Local newspaper This Day writes that Nigerian conglomerate BUA Group has also expressed an interest in acquiring EMTS, which was recently rebranded from Etisalat Nigeria to 9mobile. The development follows a report at the start of this month naming France’s Orange Group and UK-based Vodafone Group as possible investors in the country’s fourth largest wireless operator by subscribers.
Earlier this year EMTS defaulted on a USD1.2 billion loan with a consortium of 13 local banks and discussions on a debt restructuring plan between the operator and its lenders did not lead to a resolution. Etisalat Group was ordered to transfer its 45% to United Capital Trustees, the security trustee of the firm’s lenders, and terminated its existing management and technical support agreements with the cellco, giving it three weeks to phase out the Etisalat brand. According to reports, the consortium of banks has appointed advisers, including Standard Bank and Citibank, to receive and evaluate bids for 9mobile.