GTB, Access Bank, Zenith To Takeover Etisalat Over $1.72 Billion Debt

Telecommunication firm, Etisalat is on the verge of being taken over by 3 banks over the debt totaling $1.72 billion (N541.8 billion) which it obtained in 2015.
The Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, had tried to broker a peaceful resolution of the issue between Etisalat Nigeria and a consortium of banks- Zenith Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank and Access Bank- but it seems it’s effort failed.
The loan, which involved a foreign-backed guaranty bond, was for Etisalat to finance a major network rehabilitation and expansion of its operational base in Nigeria.
However, following the failure of the company to meet its debt servicing schedule agreed since 2016, the three Nigerian banks, prodded by their foreign partners, reported Etisalat to banking sector regulator, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and its communications sector counterpart, the NCC.
Although Etisalat blamed its inability to fulfill its obligation to the banks on the current economic recession in Nigeria, the banks said their attempt to recover the loan, by all means, was fuelled by the pressure from the Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON, demanding immediate cut down on the rate of their non-performing loans.
A senior official of one of the banks who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES late on Tuesday said one of the options they have proposed to Etisalat management as a middle way out of the crisis was for it to request for a bankruptcy status.
The official, who requested that his name should not be revealed since he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the consortium, said the bankruptcy option would require having receivership management appointed by the banks to oversee its operations.
But, the NCC appears not to be favorably disposed to the takeover proposal, the source said, as it believes Etisalat was not only a viable going concern but also willing and able to negotiate its loan servicing.
However, a top source at the NCC said late Tuesday that the commission had approved the takeover, which is expected to occur today.
Etisalat is the fourth largest telecoms operator in Nigeria. It commenced business operation in Nigeria in 2009 and it has about 21 million subscribers as at January 2017, according to the NCC.

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