The leadership of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Wednesday ordered the consortium of 13 banks involved in Etisalat Nigeria’s $1.2 billion loan to suspend further action on the indebtedness, including taking over ownership or management of the company.
This is just as the apex bank warned that it would resist any move by the lenders to take over the network operator without its express approval, in a meeting held between CBN officials and the CEOs of the 13 banks on Wednesday in Abuja.
Vanguard Newspaper reports that the directive came directly from the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who spoke to the banks’ Chief Executives via phone while they were meeting to discuss the next move in resolving the debt saga.
Speaking to the newspaper, an industry source who had knowledge of the meeting, said the banks wanted to clear the misconception that they wanted to take-over the ownership and management of Etisalat.
“That is not the objectives of the bank. They are not interested and they are not taking over Etisalat. They did not request for the transfer of the shares of UAE’s Etisalat shares to United Capital. All they are pushing for is repayment of the loans. Don’t forget that the money does not belong to the banks but to their depositors.”
Another reliable central bank source, who spoke to THISDAY on Wednesday, said the Board of the CBN would not support any “hostile takeover” of the telecoms company due to its indebtedness to the banks.
The CBN source said: “Just like the NCC has warned that Etisalat’s licence is not transferable, the leadership of the CBN from all indications will not allow any hostile takeover without its approval.
“They (the banks) cannot do that by just taking a decision like that. Etisalat is not transferring any licence to any consortium of banks. We are going to resolve it amicably. The CBN and NCC are working towards resolving it amicably.”
It is understood that a consortium of 13 Nigerian lenders led by Access Bank Plc had moved to make good an earlier threat to take over Etisalat on Thursday, following its inability to meet the payment terms on a $1.2 billion loan that it took in 2013 for network upgrade and expansion.
The banks comprising Access Bank, Zenith Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, FirstBank Limited, Fidelity Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Stanbic IBTC, EcoBank, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc and Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, among others, had said they would take over Etisalat’s operations through its legal representative, United Capital Trustees.