There are strong indications that a fresh order issued by a Nigerian court on Friday may jeopardise the sale of 9mobile, Nigeria’s fourth largest operator.
The Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, yesterday nullified an ex parte order approving the appointment of an interim board for Nigerian telecom operator, Emerging Markets Telecommunications Service, EMTS.
The court nullified the ex parte order – which is an interim order often granted in the absence of the other party in a case – it granted in July 2017 which had given legal backing to the interim board set up by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to manage the transition of the company formerly known as Etisalat following a debt crisis.
The nullification came on the back of dismissal of the Preliminary Objection filed by United Capital Trustees Ltd (UCTL) in response to the application by Spectrum Wireless, a shareholder of EMTS.
Spectum’s application was for a nullification of the ex parte order by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court.
Spectrum had claimed that the order was obtained by misrepresentation of facts that alienated its interests in the EMTS.
However, the court has now discharged the order and asked UCTL to “reverse all steps taken by it since the order was a nullity”, according to the court papers seen by TheCable.
The judge, while delivering his verdict, calls to question the legality of the board and the validity of the sale process which is expected to reach a milestone on January 16, 2018 with the submission of bids by five interested buyers.
9mobile, which was formerly Etisalat, rebranded after its major owners in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, pulled out and a new board was inaugurated to run its affairs.
This was after failed negotiation with its lenders over a missed payment of the $1.2billion loan taken from a consortium of 13 Nigerian banks in 2013.
9mobile is being prepared for sale by Barclays Africa.
Five bidders have made the final list of potential buyers: Teleology Holdings Limited, promoted by Adrian Wood, the pioneer CEO of MTN Nigeria; Smile Telecoms Holdings, a telco operating in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo DR and South Africa; and Helios Investment Partners LLP, an investment company.
Others are Bharti Airtel, an Indian telco that owns Airtel Nigeria, and Globacom, the Nigerian company owned by Mike Adenuga Jnr.