Amid reports of a planned takeover of telecommunications firm, 9mobile by persons said to be related to the Presidency, one of the companies which form the consortium, Teleology that won the bid for control of the former Etisalat, has quit.
The company owned by Mr Adrian Wood, a former chief executive officer of MTN Nigeria, announced its exit from the Teleology Consortium for undisclosed reasons, last Thursday, a development which Management of 9mobile, in a swift statement issued same day, confirmed.
Accusing Wood of ‘avarice, rascality, impatience and knavery,’ the statement by 9mobile signed by
Director, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, Oluseyi Osunsedo, on behalf of the 9mobile Board of Directors, the company confirmed Wood’s exit from the consortium.
Wood’s departure, two months after the formal takeover of Etisalat by 9mobile in a $301 million deal, comes after disagreements with Nigerian shareholders, according to a source within 9mobile.
The 9mobile consortium comprising Wood’s company and the Nigerian investors was picked in February by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as preferred bidder for Nigeria’s 9mobile – the country’s fourth-biggest telecoms operator – after a debt default forced 9mobile’s lenders to step in to find new investors.
“While remaining resolutely focused on rewarding our loyal customers and attracting new ones with the best telecom services in Nigeria, Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Ltd. trading as 9mobile deems it necessary to respond to the myriad of false, misleading, and malicious media reports currently in circulation.
“In the aftermath of the protracted mismanagement of an otherwise healthy company, and eventual default on its loans by the previous owners, 9mobile was acquired by Teleology Nigeria Limited, following an internationally competitive and exhaustive bidding process led by Barclays Africa, with participation of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) and thirteen Nigerian banks including GT Bank, Zenith Bank, Access Bank and others.
“This process, which was well covered by the Nigerian media, was concluded with the initial deposit of $50 million and a further payment of $251 million as settlement to the banks who took over the company. These payments as well as further due diligence and technical evaluations led to the clearance of the sale by the NCC, and handover of 9mobile to the new owners, who announced a Board on 12 November 2018 with His Royal Highness Prince Nasiru Ado Bayero as the new Chairman.
“Teleology Nigeria Limited is a consortium including several local and foreign investors. While every partner in the consortium was delivering and meeting their obligations to the partnership in terms of financial resources, physical availability for crucial meetings and extensive network to help build the business, Mr. Adrian Wood’s Teleology Holdings Limited, which only owned a minority stake in Teleology Nigeria Limited, failed severally and wholly to meet theirs. Mr. Wood was not personally present for all the critical presentations made by the consortium during the bid process and failed abjectly with his financing arrangements with Swiss-based UBS Bank. In all these failings, other partners in the consortium filled the gap and pushed ahead until the sale was completed.
“Since taking over the company, and without any assistance from Mr. Wood or Teleology Holdings, the Board has revived and enhanced relationships with key vendors and core business accounts; improved business relationships with suppliers; enhanced its core network capabilities to deliver network efficiency competitively with other operators. With the assistance of leading global consultants, the company is also undertaking a complete review of its operational, regulatory, financial and technical architecture. On these basis, 9mobile has emerged from a period of uncertainty over the past two years to attain an active subscriber base of 16 million, representing a net increase of over 1 million subscribers in the last 6 weeks alone.
“It is regrettable that Mr. Wood has allowed the same avarice, rascality, impatience and knavery that characterized his turbulent association with, and inglorious exits from several other companies to manifest again so early in 9mobile. While we wish him well in his future endeavors, we unequivocally assure our customers, suppliers, partners, regulators, and stakeholders that the Board is committed to continuing the upward mobility of 9mobile. Having invested so heavily in buying the company, and assembling a reliable team to pursue our goals, we want to categorically state that no distractions can stop us from this mission,” the statement read.
Further assuring customers of the company’s commitment to its growth strategies, the company berated Wood’s ‘short-term financial gain.’
“The company’s core strategy in the short to medium term shall be underpinned by cost efficiency, innovative product development, network efficiency and strategic technical partnerships. We believe that this approach towards organic growth is more sustainable in building a strong Nigerian telecom operator, which taps into the deep technical expertise of the Nigerian labour force than an approach motivated by short-term financial gain advocated by Mr. Wood and his associates.”
However, industry watchers also believe that Wood’s exit from the consortium may not be unconnected with the growing reports of compromise and involvement in politics alleged in some quarters over the 9mobile choice of raising shares.
Early in the month, former Vice President and the 2019 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, alleged that he is in possession of evidence showing how cronies of President Muhammadu Buhari acquired shares in Keystone Bank and 9mobile.
Although the two firms have denied cronies of the president bought its shares, Atiku has continued to insist that a probe on the matter should be carried out.
The Presidency has, however, asked the former vice president to tender evidence before it could act on the issue.
“While we hold on to the piece of evidence that we have, it is no longer in doubt that underhand dealings took place in the acquisition of Keystone Bank and 9Mobile,” he said.
“The roles played by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), both agencies of government have been widely reported and not controverted. The days of playing the ostrich by the Presidency are over. No more hiding for them”, he added.
“It is not surprising that the EFCC has suddenly become prostrate and bluntly refused to investigate the acquisition of Keystone Bank and 9Mobile which have been widely adjudged to be fraudulent, if not out rightly criminal.
“The EFCC, like many other agencies under the administration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government has once again displayed partisanship. The only hope at this stage is the National Assembly which we urge should take up the gauntlet,” Atiku said in a statement by his special assistant on Public Communications, Mr Phrank Shaibu, Thursday.
The reports also allege that the share purchases amount in excess of the $300 million which the Teleology Consortium paid for the ownership of the embattled Etisalat.