A consortium of some Nigerian banks are reportedly set to take over Etisalat Nigeria today Wednesday despite efforts by the Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, to broker a peaceful resolution between the telecoms firm and the banks over a N541.8bn debt.
The consortium including Guaranty Trust Bank, Access Bank and Zenith Bank have been having a running battle with the mobile telephone operator over a loan facility totalling $1.72 billion (about N541.8 billion) obtained in 2015, Premium Times reports.
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.
But, owing to the company’s failure to meet its debt servicing schedule agreed since last year, the three Nigerian banks, prodded by their foreign partners, reported Etisalat to the banking sector regulator, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and its communications sector counterpart, the NCC.
While Etisalat blamed its inability to fulfil 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.
Speaking with the online newspaper late on Tuesday, senior official of one of the banks 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 was said to have pleaded anonymity since he was not authorised 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 favourably 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 telecoms industry regulator was reported as disclosing that the commission had approved the takeover, which is expected to occur today.
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