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By Chijioke Ohuocha
LAGOS, March 22 (Reuters) - Teleology Holdings has agreed to buy 9mobile, Nigeria’s fourth largest telecoms provider, the investment firm said on Thursday.
9mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria, took out a $1.2 billion syndicated loan from 13 local banks in 2013 but failed to make repayments last year. Under the stewardship of its lenders, it has changed its board, management and name and is now up for sale.
Teleology said it had made a $50 million deposit to meet conditions for the acquisition and had partnered with East Africa’s largest telecoms operator Safaricom to transform debt-laden 9mobile.
Teleology was set up by 12 telecoms industry veterans led by ex-MTN Nigeria executive Adrian Wood.
Barclays Africa picked Teleology as the preferred bidder for debt-laden 9mobile last month and asked the company to pay a non-refundable deposit of $50 million by March. Teleology said it transferred the deposit to the trustee holding 9mobile shares on behalf of the lenders.
Teleology said it had been in meetings in the last few days with executives of the organisation, lenders, regulators and Barclays Africa, on the acquisition.
The acquisition comes at a time of increased competition in Nigeria’s telecoms sector, Teleology said, adding that it plans to double 9mobile’s network and drive rural internet coverage.
Since the debt issue, 9mobile has lost subscribers. In October it had 17.1 million users, a 12.2 percent market share, which was down from 20 million subscribers, or 14 percent share earlier in 2017, the telecoms regulator said. (Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha; editing by Jason Neely and Pritha Sarkar)