N541bn Debt: Access, GTB, Others Take Over Etisalat Nigeria

Despite intervention of the Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, a consortium of some foreign and Nigerian banks, has taken over the management of Etisalat Nigeria, THE WHISTLER has learnt.

Etisalat Group, the parent company of Etisalat Nigeria, announced the takeover on Tuesday in a filing to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirate.

The Nigerian banks according to sources includes, Access Bank PLC, Guaranty Trust Bank, and Zenith Bank, with the take-over effective June 15.

The banks were said to 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.

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.

The take-over followed the inability of Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services, EMTS to reach an agreement with the banks on debt the repayment plan, Etisalat Group Chief Financial Officer, Serkan Okandan, said in a letter dated June 20, 2017.

EMTS has up to Friday, June 23 to complete the transfer of 100 percent of the company’s shares in Etisalat to the United Capital Trustees Limited, the legal representative of the consortium of banks.

“Further to our announcement dated 12 February, 2017, Emirates Telecommunications Group Company PJSC, “Etisalat Group” would like to inform you that Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services Limited “EMTS” (“the company), established in Nigeria and an associate of Etisalat Group with effective ownership of 45% and 25% ordinary and preference shares respectively, defaulted on a facility agreement with a syndicate of Nigerian banks (“EMTS Lenders”).

“Subsequently, discussions between EMTS and the EMTS Lenders did not produce an agreement on a debt restructuring plan.

“Accordingly, the Company received a default and security Enforcement Notice on 9 June 2017 requesting EMTS Holding BV (EMTS BV) established in the Netherlands, and through which Etisalat Group holds its interest in the company) requiring EMTS BV to transfer 100% of its shares in the company to the United Capital Trustees Limited (the Security Trustee”) of the EMTS Lenders by 15 June 2017.

“Subsequently the EMTS Lenders extened the deadline for the share transfer to 5.00 pm Lagos time on 23 June 2017,” the statement said.

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.

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