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Etisalat: Bello-Osagie Plots Comeback, ‘9Mobile’ A Transitory Name

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Mr. Hakeem Bello Osagie

The battle for the soul of Etisalat Nigeria (now rebranded 9Mobile) has reached a crescendo as Nigeria CommunicationsWeek investigations showed that Mr. Hakeem Bello-Osagie, former chairman, has launched out in search of investment partners to buy the mega shares in the company.

In May 2013, Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services Limited (EMTS), trading under the name of Etisalat Nigeria, signed a $1.2billion medium-term syndicated loan facility agreement with Zenith Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, First Bank of Nigeria Limited and 10 other banks.

But, Mr. Osagie who resigned his position on the heat of threats from the banks to take over the Company for failure to pay back the loan, plans to regain his position should he get new investors.

A week ago, Hatem Dowidar, the chief executive of Etisalat International, said Etisalat Group would, in the next three weeks, phase out the brand name in Nigeria.

The decision followed Emirates Telecommunications Group (Etisalat Group) withdrawal of further involvement in the ownership of the Nigerian subsidiary.

Until June 15, the United Arab Emirates, UAE, group was a major shareholder in Etisalat Nigeria, along with United Arab Emirates Sovereign Wealth Fund through Mubadala Development Company, Abu Dhabi.

The two affiliates controlled a combined 85 per cent equity in the telecom firm, with Myacinth holding 15 per cent stake through Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services, EMTS Holding BV, owned by former United Bank for Africa, UBA, Mr Bello-Osagie.

Opting to part ways with the company followed the crisis in the wake of the $1.2billion syndicated loan the telecom firm took in 2013 from a consortium of 13 Nigerian banks, an impeccable source revealed to Nigeria CommunicationsWeek, Mr. Bello-Osagie has vowed to block moves by an influential ‘money bag’ without technical credentials to take over the company.

According to the Source, “Mr. Bello-Osagie, former chairman’s confidence of pulling a surprise comeback is based on the fact that the 13 banks are supposed to take over the mega shares in Etisalat, but they are not interested. They (the banks) are actually shopping for investors to buy over the shares. Presently, the shares are domicile with UBA Capital.

“So, Mr. Osagie is not giving up on the matter. First, his ‘group’ still maintains 15% stake in Etisalat. Remember, they are the owners of the operating licence too. Secondly, he is not comfortable with an influential business mogul who is making moves to take over Etisalat. The potential investor lacks the technical milieu to manage the Company.

“The man roadblock to him (the money bag) is that he possesses an expired operating license. The Communications Acts 2003 makes it impossible for him to buy over the shares. But he views the present circumstances as a golden opportunity to launch fully into the telecommunications business, especially with the potentials 9Mobile has. He might want to buy the Company through other business ventures. So, EMTS is on red alert”. 

The Source also told Nigeria CommunicationsWeek that ‘9Mobile’ is merely a transitory name put forward by EMTS to beat the deadline as Etisalat International, has made intentions know to phase out the brand name in Nigeria by month end.

“Remember, at the launch of EMTS in Nigeria in 2008, “0809ja” was adopted, to affirm the “Nigerianness” of its origin. And it worked. The plan now is such that if EMTS succeeds in buying over the banks’ shares then the name 9Mobile, which is a transitory name, shall be dropped almost immediately. Should they fail to get investors of preference to buy the shares, it means EMTS will remain with 15% stake, but the new investors will come out with a new name. As it stands now, it stands 50-50 for Mr. Osagie to come back to his position”, the source said on Sunday night.

Recall, after the interventions of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in the loan feud between Etisalat Nigeria and a consortium of 13 banks, Mr. Osagie, resigned his appointment as part of restructuring plan for the telecommunications firm.

The new board is headed by Dr. Joseph Nnanna, chairman; Mr. Boye Olusanya who replaced Matther Wilshire as CEO; Mr. Oluseyi Bickersteth, non- executive director; Mr. Ken Igbokwe, non-executive director and Mrs. Funke Ighodaro, Chief Finance Officer.

 

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Angry Reps Threaten to Arrest Bello-Osagie, Airtel Boss

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Hakeem Bello-Osagie, chairman of the defunct Etisalat Nigeria

Segun Ogunsanya, chief executive officer & managing director, Airtel Nigeria

House of Representatives adhoc committee investigating the operational activities of telecoms operators panel Thursday threatened to issue an arrest warrant against Hakeem Bello-Osagie, chairman of the defunct Etisalat Nigeria, as well as Segun Ogunsanya, chief executive officer & managing director, Airtel Nigeria for shunning the panel’s summons.

 

According to the Hon. Ahmed Abu- headed committee, Bello-Osagie and the Airtel CEO refused to honour the invitations by the panel to answer questions on alleged tax evasion by Airtel and former Etisalat

 

Abu while speaking at the National Assembly during a public hearing Thursday described the behaviour of the two men as unacceptable adding that an arrest warrant would be issued against them should they fail to appear on the next invitation.

 

His words: “It’s important that your MD is here. Public interest overrides any other interest. We don’t want anybody to play this card to say people will lose their jobs. Nigerian workers are ultimate.

 

“It’s only in Nigeria where what happened in the transition between Etisalat and 9Mobile will happen. We looked into the books, and the balances are annoying. You must bring Bello-Osagie here, else we’ll issue arrest warrant against him.

 

He said while speaking on the Airtel CEO:  “when next we do a letter to the CEO of Airtel and he doesn’t turn up, we’ll issue an arrest warrant against him.”

 

However, because he was in a meeting at the Presidential villa, the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler could not appear before the lawmakers hence the spect of 5 percent Value Added Tax  charges on sales of recharge cards could not be treated.

 

Meanwhile, another ad-hoc panel of the House which is probing the various intervention funds by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has summoned the Managing Director of the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), Ahmed Kuru.

 

At the same committee hearing, the Director General of the Nigeria Lottery Commission, Lanre Gbajabiamila said that while approximately 295 licensed Value-added Service (VAS) providers have generated about N80 billion revenues across the four operators within the past 4 years , MTN alone is grossing about 50 percent of the entire revenue

 

He said it is therefore evident that there is need for the revenue sharing formula between Mobile Network Operators and Value-added Service (VAS)/Digtal content and  Mobile- based lottery providers be reviewed upwards in favour of the VAS providers.

 

Gbajabiamila, said the sharing formulae should now be 60- 40 in favour of the VAS providers.

 

“VAS partners are largely responsible for running lottery/promo services in behalf of the operators. As these initiatives are very resource consuming, it is important that any partner looking to engage in it is well prepared in terms of funding and planning of their expectations and returns.

 

” The resources and creativity the continues to be applied to VAS and digital content generation are the key components to the success of the industries..

 

“Over the years, collaborations between MNOs and the VAS partners have seen revenue share continue to take a fall from 60 to 30 percent on the average, to as low as 15 percent to VAS providers in some cases.”

 

He said previously, VAS partners who held licenses from the Lottery Regulatory Commission were guided by certain sets of provisional rules which are easily applied according to the type and scale of promo offering being proposed..

 

But that the guideline seems to be varying in ways that VAS partners are struggling to comply with. “And this is the basis of the presentation of our position to this honorable assembly.”

 

Gbajabiamila said the current lottery ACT 2005 seems to address mostly main stream lottery services, usually based in ticket sales and returns.

 

While citing, sections 20, 24, 35 and 57 of the Act he said a minimum of 50 percent of the proceeds of the National Lottery is to be paid to a prize fund, which is dedicated to the payment of prizes.

 

He however said that approximately 295 licensed VAS providers have generated about N80 billion revenues across the four operators within the past 4 years “of which MTN is grossing about 50 percent of the entire revenue.”

 

Members of the committee agreed that there is need to upgrade the share of the VAS providers adding that the Mobile Network Operators are obviously not treating the VAS providers fairly.

 

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Bharti Airtel, Tigo Merge to form AirtelTigo

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Bharti Airtel has merged with Millicom’s Tigo in Ghana to become the country’s second largest mobile operator, the new company AirtelTigo said yesterday.

The merger, the first of its kind in Ghana, is a bid to increase share in the West African country where mobile phone use is one of the highest in Africa and competition for 37.4 million mobile phone users is fierce.

South Africa’s MTN dominates with 47.5 percent of subscribers. Others include Britain’s Vodafone, Globacom of Nigeria and Sudan’s Sudatel Expresso.

The National Communications Authority regulator granted conditional approval for the merger in September, following an agreement in March by the two companies to combine their operations. .

AirtelTigo will serve around 10 million subscribers with revenues close to $300 million, it said in a statement.

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Yola Hosts USPF North East Zonal Stakeholder Workshop on ICT Utilisation and Sustainability

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The Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) secretariat, recently held the North East Zonal stakeholder engagement workshop in Yola

 

Universal Service Provision Fund a department of NCC created under the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003 to support the provision of ICT services in un-served and under-served areas of Nigeria.

 

The USPF in keeping with the reigning paradigm of development and sustainability, particularly the importance of an all-inclusive engagement and collaborative partnership, convened the workshop to enable all stakeholders to discuss and evolve ways of ensuring the growth and sustainability of Community Resource Centres (CRCs), School Knowledge Centres and other similar projects and programmes facilitated by the Fund.

 

The Secretariat is convinced that it is through appropriate utilisation of these projects in a sustainable manner that will bolster the economy of the beneficiaries and communties, and accelerate social development especially in terms of qualitative and equitable education; effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare systems; improved access to markets and information for the small-scale farmers; and for neighbourhood crisis and disaster prevention and management.

 

Participants at the workshop were government officials, community leaders, development enthusiasts and journalists.

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