As the 90 days deadline given to declared winner of the bid for 9mobile, Teleology Holdings, to pay the balance of its bid price draws near, the unending drama that has dogged the sale continues to unnerve.
The drama this time around is the conflict in the actual bid price offered by Teleology Holdings.
According to a reliable source, who disclosed to Newsmen some details about the deal, the general public has been led to believe that Teleology’s bid price is $500 million and having paid $50 million un-refundable deposit, it now has a balance of $450 million to pay failing which the reserved bidder, Smile Telecoms Holdings, said to have offered a bid price of $300 million will be invited to step-in as the new winner of the bid.
The actual bid price submitted by the preferred bidder (Teleology Holdings) appears to be shrouded in mystery thus further depriving the entire bid process of any measure of transparency.
The latest figure been bandied about as the actual bid price offered by Teleology Holdings is $301 million.
Usual reliable sources disclosed that on April 12, 2018 at the House of Representatives investigative hearing on the collapse of Etisalat now renamed 9mobile, the telecoms industry regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), through its Deputy Director, Legal and Regulatory Services, stated that the NCC was made aware vide a letter dated March 29, 2018 from United Capital Trustees that a non-refundable sum of $50 million had been paid by the preferred bidder (Teleology Holdings) and that a balance of $251 million would be paid within 90 days.
Keen watchers of the bid process are not amused by this latest revelation which tend to cast a further slur on the bid process as it is likely to be viewed as an orchestrated ploy to help Teleology cross the huge hurdle on its way to owning 9mobile by the apparent drastic reduction from the earlier claimed $500 million to the drastically diminished $301 million.
Viewed critically, the sum of $301 million is a significant reduction from the earlier touted bid price of $500 million and will be easier for Teleology to pay, analysts said.
Curiously, the said sum of $301 million is only $1 million above the quoted price of $300 million that Smile Telecoms Holdings was believed to have offered for 9mobile. It then means that Teleology only offered just $1 million over and above Smile’s alleged bid price.
More importantly, the new bid price of $301 million if sustained implies that either the public have been roundly deceived via earlier reports that credited Teleology Holdings with offering $500 million for 9mobile or that the Federal Government has now been shortchanged to the tune of $190 million at a time the government is looking for every possible avenue to augment its dwindling revenue, sources said.
Against the background of the strident criticisms that have characterised the bid process, it is not unlikely that there could be insider collusion that may possibly have squealed on Smile’s offer price so as to enable Teleology beat it howbeit by just $1 million.
The sustained allegation of bias in favour of Teleology in the sale of 9mobile was validated by Barclays Africa, the financial adviser handling the sale of 9mobile, in a letter written by Barclays Africa to Guaranty Trust Bank (in its capacity as Facility Agent, acting for and on behalf of the Syndicate Lenders).
In the letter that was also directed to the Board of Directors of 9mobile, Barclays Africa placed on record that its letter to the Board dated 19th February 2018 in which it responded to the 18th February Board letter from 9mobile amongst others advised the 9mobile Board against changing the rules of the bid mid-way into the process.
Said Barclays Africa: “The instructions in the letter are not in line with the process letter dated 26th January 2018, as approved by the Board and issued to each bidder and will effectively amend the same”.
Barclays Africa further lamented that its advisories were largely ignored by the Board of 9mobile so as to achieve a predetermined end. The bank was further piqued by the delay in signing the Sales Purchase Agreement (SPA). It would be recalled that the rules governing the bid process stated that on the day of award (which was February 26) the SPA should be signed. The SPA earlier sent to all bidders by Barclays on January 26 directed the bidders to review and send their remarks back so that it will be ready for signature on the day of the award.
In an apparent quest to sanitize the seemingly tainted bid process, NCC in a letter, by its Governing Board signed by the Chairman, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, to the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, espoused three criteria that will guide the emergence of a preferred bidder for 9mobile.
The first is “that whichever company would quality as successful bidder to take over 9mobile has the technical competence apart from financial capability to turn around 9mobile and not further compound its problems”.
The second criterion is “that the successful bidder should come in with substantial funds (forex) to sustain the industry not just recycling funds facilities already within the economy”. While the third insists “that the company that will take over should have adequate technical infrastructure on ground”.
The last criterion stemmed from NCC’s disavowal of the likelihood of the CBN been swayed by the creditor banks that “only focuses essentially on repayment of outstanding loans”. NCC’s concern for the sustenance of 9mobile business post sale is hinged on the need for “the continuity of the company for the betterment of the telecom industry, subscribers, labour force and the interest of Nigeria as a whole”.
Perhaps, re-affirming NCC’s position, Prof. Umar Danbatta, Chief Executive Officer of NCC, at a media parley in Lagos re-stated that the nation’s telecoms regulator will scrutinize the technical capability and pedigree of the firm recommended as preferred bidder in the sale of 9mobile.