Etisalat Nigeria operating under their parent company, Etisalat Group, on Tuesday, pulled out of Nigeria.
This came after the company sent a notification letter to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, informing it of its decision to pull out of Nigeria following the announcement of a take over of the company by a consortium of Nigerian and foreign banks on Tuesday.
The announcement by the consortium banks, that it had taken over the company, has, in essence, placed a final seal on the lingering negotiations between the Etiasalat Group and and its creditors.
Etisalat UAE, in the notification letter, notified the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange that it had decided to transfer all its Etisalat Nigeria shares to the designated security trustee of the consortium of banks.
Mr. Matthew Willsher, Etisalat Nigeria’s Chief Executive officer further Confirmed the development in a press statement that read: “Our renegotiation with the banks are not yet over, but our shareholding structure is evolving. This morning, Etisalat UAE notified the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange of the forthcoming transfer of their shares to the appointed security trustee of the banks. The exact nature and timing of the transfer is still under discussion, but we expect the final transfer to be done in a coordinated manner.
“Discussions are also ongoing to address the different management, technical and IP-related implications of the move, including continued use of the Etisalat brand name to trade in Nigeria.
“This was always one of many possible outcomes. The business will of course continue to operate, because any planned exit will be carried out in coordination with the banks, regulators and shareholders.
“Our immediate priority though is to ensure that there is no disruptions to day-to-day operations of the business. In spite of the changes that lie ahead, we aim to maintain continuity through our focus, capabilities, and values.
“So, we will continue to focus on the customer. Our commitment to delivering results through innovation, operational excellence and quality of service will endure. And we will also be guided by our core value of passion for excellence, integrity, One Term- One Mission, Growing our people and Empowering our people.
“The business outlook remains challenging, but our re-negotiations so far allow us to refocus our energies on the financial, operational and strategic priorities that will help
The Nigerian Government, has however, waded into the controversy surrounding the announcement of the takeover on Tuesday.
The Federal Government in a statement declared that without regulatory approval, the banks have no right to take over Etisalat Nigeria, which is the fourth telecoms service provider in the country.
This was communicsted through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which also declared that that they consortium of banks have a number of regulatory hurdles to jump.
According to the NCC’s Public Affairs Director, Tony Ojobo, the banks must consider relevant laws of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003, and the legal provisions guiding the transfer of NCC licences issued to operators in the country, making reference to
Section 38 Sub section 1 of the NCA, which states that; “The grant of a licence shall be personal to the licensee, and the licence shall not be operated by, assigned, sub-licensed or transferred to another party unless the prior written approval of the commission has been granted.”
Further citing sub section 2 of the Act, the commission said;
“A licencee shall, at all times, comply by the terms and condition of the licence and the provision of this act and its subsidiary legislation.
“The NCC wishes to assure the over 21 million Etisalat subscribers that it will do all within its regulatory power to ensure that Etisalat subscribers continue to enjoy the services provided by the operator,” it added.
Mr. Ojobo further said “the Commission has taken proactive steps to cushion the impact of the takeover”, noting that, “This is without prejudice to the ongoing effort between Etisalat and the banks towards negotiated settlement.”
He also reassured subscribers that they would still continue to enjoy the services provided by Etisalat even as both parties look to settle the matter.
“Whilst the banks and Etisalat are working at resolving the issues, the Commission wishes to assure subscribers that they will continue to enjoy the services provided by Etisalat.
“In view of the development, NCC wishes to reassure all stakeholders in the telecommunications sector, in particular, the subscribers on the Etisalat Network, that the Commission will ensure that the integrity of Etisalat Network is not compromised”, he said.