The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says that the operating licence issued to Etisalat cannot be transferred without its approval.
Etisalat, Nigeria’s fourth largest mobile network, had transferred control of the company to a consortium of banks after failed debt repayment talks.
The banks, which include Access Bank, Zenith Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, FirstBank Limited, Fidelity Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Stanbic IBTC, EcoBank, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc and Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, among others, said they would take over Etisalat’s operations through its legal representative, United Capital Trustees.
A statement by Tony Ojobo, director, public affairs, NCC, assured customers of the network that it would do everything within its powers to ensure that they continue to enjoy services provided by the operator.
“The attention of the commission has been drawn to the planned takeover of Etisalat by a consortium of banks.
“As a result of this planned action, the commission wishes to state that it is aware of the indebtedness of Etisalat to the consortium of banks.
“In conjunction with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), we mediated by holding several meetings with the banks, Etisalat and other stakeholders with a view to finding a resolution. Regrettably these meetings did not yield the desired results.
“The NCC wishes to reassure 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.
“The commission has taken proactive steps to cushion the impact of the takeover, this is without prejudice to the ongoing effort between Etisalat and the banks towards a negotiated settlement.
“In view of the recent development, NCC wishes to reassure all stakeholders in the telecommunications sector, and in particular the subscribers on the Etisalat network that the commission will ensure that the integrity of Etisalat Network is not compromised.
“Accordingly, the commission has drawn the attention of the banks to provisions of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003 Section 38: Sub section 1 – 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;
“Sub section 2 – A licensee shall at all times comply by the terms and conditions of the license and the provision of this Act and its subsidiary legislation.”
Of the three core investors in Etisalat Nigeria – Mubadala Development Company, UAE; Emirates Telecommunications Group Company (Etisalat Group), Abu Dhabi; and Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS), the local arm of Etisalat Nigeria – only Mubadala has announced its intention to pull out of the company.
Mubadala owns 40% of the equity in Etisalat Nigeria, Emirates Telecoms Group owns 45% and EMTS holds 15%.
“Accordingly, the company received a default and security Enforcement Notice on June 9, 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 per cent 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 extended the deadline for the share transfer to 5 p.m. Lagos time on 23 June 2017.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Etisalat Nigeria said it had not decided on a trading name during the transition period.