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MTN not interested in 9Mobile, Group CEO says

MTN not interested in 9Mobile, Group CEO says

South Africa’s MTN Group has said that the mobile phone group is not interested in buying 9Mobile, the Nigerian mobile operator formerly called Etisalat Nigeria.

Speculations have been circulating that MTN, owners of MTN Nigeria and some rival operators are considering buying 9Mobile which has been taken over by a group of creditors.

However, MTN, which is also just getting out of the woods from the financial impact of the unprecedented N1.4 trillion fines imposed on its Nigerian mobile unit, MTN Nigeria, said its focus is not to acquire its local competitor.

Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO of MTN dropped the hint that the South African mobile phone company was “not actively engaged” in the ongoing process to sell off 9Mobile by the consortium of creditor banks.

“There is a lot of press speculation around that. That is not our focus. Our focus right now is basically focussing on our own operation and improving that, optimising it, focussing on the commercial performance”, Shuter said.

Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO of MTN
Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO of MTN

“There is a lot of press speculation around that. That is not our focus. Our focus right now is basically focussing on our own operation and improving that, optimising it, focussing on the commercial performance”, Shuter said.

Recent reports have linked the Big Three Mobile operators in Nigeria with talks to buy 9Mobile, after the mobile phone company became a takeover victim by its creditors in financial obligations running into over N541.8 billion, according to reports.

Before its troubles, the former Etisalat Nigeria, the number four mobile operator by subscriber numbers devoted its key focus on the youth market and delivery of mobile data services, which has helped to propel its subscriber uptakes in the competitive mobile market.

Unprecedented: Watchdog imposes N1.4 trillion fine on MTN Nigeria


The MTN Group CEO, who dropped this hint while speaking in South Africa wraps up the market trend this way: “I think the competitive intensity is pretty  high. Etisalat has rebranded as 9mobile. They have always been very much focussed on the metro data positioning. So we’ve seen them more active in the market. It’s a  competitive market. You’ve got ourselves, Eti or 9mobile, Airtel, Glo, a lot of ISPs. So I think it remains a competitively intense market. I do think though that we are doing  much better there. I feel much more confident about our relative performance. And we see that in some of our internal subscriber analysis.”

On the flip side, both operators have been hit by falling subscriber numbers since last year in what has become an industry-wide trend with varying degree of impact on individual operator.

MTN Nigeria’s active subscriber base has dropped from 61,840,461 at the end of last year to 50,307,169 by September 2017.

Same goes for troubled 9Mobile which has recorded relatively higher impact in the wake of its takeover after posting 20,809,889 in 2016, which has dropped to 17,203,940 by September 2017.

On its part, Globacom, the number two by numbers, which was 37,357,843 by 2016 is now 37,349,979 by Septemeber 2017.
Meanwhile, Airtel Nigeria, the number three by numbers which had 34,116,409 by 2017 is now posting 34,625,744 at end of September 2017.

In July this year, the management of Etisalat Nigeria announced the reconstitution of its Board under which it was announced that the consortium of lenders, working with the regulators NCC and the Central Bank of Nigeria, will restructure the company.

Mr. Waleed al-Muhain, Deputy CEO Mubadala Development Company (MDC), owners of Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services, trading as Etisalat Nigeria; and Prof. Umar Danbatta, EVC/CEO NCC receiving Mr. al-Muhain who led the MDC team on a courtesy visit to NCC.
Photo release by NCC shows Mr Sunday Dare, NCC’s Executive Commissioner Stakeholder Management (left); Mr Waleed al-Muhain, Deputy CEO of Mubadala Development Company (MDC), owners of Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services (EMTS) trading as Etisalat Nigeria; Professor Umar Danbatta, EVC/CEO of NCC; Mr. Khaled al-Qubaisi of MDC and Mr Hakeem Belo-Osagie, Chairman Etisalat Nigeria at a visit to the Nigerian Communications Commission on in Abuja.

The reconstituted board comprises of Dr. Joseph Nnanna, (Chairman); Mr. Oluseyi Bickersteth, Mr. Ken Igbokwe, Mr. Boye Olusanya and Mrs. Funke Ighodaro.

Mr. Boye Olusanya, who was named Chief Executive Officer replaced Mr. Matthew Willsher, while Mrs. Funke Ighodaro takes over from Mr. Olawole Obasunloye as Chief Finance Officer.

Prior to this, the Nigerian telecoms regulator has invoked the principle of “Too-Big-To-Fail” to try to forestall the hostile takeover of the mobile phone company by its creditors.

“The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), took the interest of investors, subscribers and employees of Etisalat into consideration to align with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in order to resolve the issues of Etisalat Nigeria (now 9Mobile) and consortium of 13 banks”. Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) and Chief Executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, has said.

Danbatta justifies that, “the over $2B Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), by Mubadala of United Arab Emirates (UAE) was hanging, while 20 million subscribers and over 2000 workers would have been affected if we did not intervene in the matter with a view to finding an amicable resolution.”

According to him, if the company had gone under, this would have created a social problem especially with the job of over 2,000 Nigerians on the line, a turn of event which he said could create security challenges for the country.

Danbatta said that NCC collaborated with CBN to avert a looming economic disaster because “we want to see a viable and thriving 9Mobile and we want to cooperate with you so that things can move seamlessly and be successful.”

Etisalat Nigeria, the last entrant among the Big Four GSM networks in Nigeria, ranked number four by subscriber base with 19,621,806 active lines representing 12.91% of the market segment at Q1 2017, according to NCC figures.

MTN Nigeria, with 60,391,959, accounted for 40.00%; Globacom with 37,328,827, accounted for 24.60% and 34,656,605 accounted for 22.80%, within the same period.

Before the partnership fell through in the wake of the debt crisis, EMTS, the privately-owned Nigerian company behind Etisalat Nigeria was in alliance with Mubadala and Etisalat of UAE, after it acquired the unified access licence from the Federal Government in January 2007. Its $400 million licence win at the time included a mobile licence and spectrum in the GSM 1800 and 900 MHZ bands.

UAE’s Etisalat later acquired a 40% stake in EMTS and was subsequently made the operator of the unified access licence and the Nigerian phone business.

However, Etisalat has pulled out of the Nigerian phone business and subsequently withdrew its brand to cause the name switch from Etisalat Nigeria to 9Mobile.

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