Etisalat set to finally exit Nigeria in the next few weeks as all UAE shareholders of Etisalat Nigeria, including state-owned investment fund Mubadala, had exited the company and left the board and management. Hatem Dowidar, the chief executive of Etisalat International, said on Monday.
Etisalat, which controls 13 percent market share in Nigeria, has had a running battle with a number of banks(merged) since March, after it notified them of its inability to service its $1.2 billion debt in February due to the foreign exchange challenges in the country.
Etisalat Nigeria took-out a $1.2 billion loan with 13 local lenders in 2013 to refinance an existing loan and fund expansion, but struggled to repay four years later.
The abu dhabi investors have about 42percent stake and 25percent shares and exit may be traced to the failed re-negotiation with the group of banks. Despite the proactive measures The Nigerian Telecom regulator and The CBN took to save Etisalat Nigeria from such collapse, the much feared take-over can be perceived already. There have been a lot of changes in the boardroom lately although subscribers are reassured that there will be no issues in operation.
On Monday, Mr. Dowidar said all UAE shareholders of Etisalat Nigeria, including state-owned investment fund Mubadala, had exited the company and left the board and management.
Speaking in an interview with Reuters, he disclosed that discussions were ongoing with Etisalat Nigeria to provide technical support, adding that it could continue to use the brand for another three-weeks before phasing it out.
“There’s a new board and we are not part of that company. We have sent our termination letter for the management agreement,” the Etisalat boss said on Monday.
Moreover, there are claims that about 42 percent of the loan has been paid.
When asked whether Etisalat would consider entering Nigerian market again, Mr. Dowidar dismissed the possibility of such move.
“The train has left the station on that one. Being in that market as an investor … are we willing to risk more money compared to the reward for the long-term?” he asked.
“(Nigerian) lenders may try to continue to operate the company until they find a buyer (or) they may merge the company with the existing players in Nigeria”, he said.
The network should continue to be operational with no interuption following the appointment of new Board of Directors which was annouced last week. This indicates an on-going restructuring effort.
The new board constituted comprise of Dr. Joseph Nnanna – Chairman, Mr. Oluseyi Bickersteth, Mr. Ken Igbokwe, Mr. Boye Olusanya and Mrs. Funke Ighodaro.
Mr. Boye Olusanya replace Mr. Matthew Willsher as Chief Executive Officer, while Mrs. Funke Ighodaro takes over from Mr. Olawole Obasunloye as Chief Finance Officer.
Transition should be as smooth as a mere change in brand name. Fingers crossed as we hope for the best.
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