NCC, CBN Wade into Etisalat Debt Crisis

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ABUJA, JUNE 21, 2017 – A meeting between the officials of Etisalat Nigeria, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and a consortium of banks has reportedly been scheduled for today to find a resolution to the debt crisis troubling the telecoms company.

NCC said last night that the consortium of banks seeking to takeover Etisalat Nigeria over the protracted $1.72 billion debt impasse must first cross some regulatory hurdles.

Elsewhere, Reuters quoted an official of Etisalat Nigeria as saying that discussions with the group of Nigerian commercial lenders are ongoing to find a “non-disruptive” solution to the debt.

The source further said that several meetings were ongoing at the NCC and the CBN after talks between about 10 Nigerian banks and Etisalat Nigeria broke down.

The source also confirmed that part of the $1.2billion bank credit obtained by Etisalat Nigeria has been paid back since 2013 when the loans were first structured.

Etisalat of the UAE, which currently holds 45% of Etislat Nigeria announced at the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange this morning that attempts to stave off the company’s takeover has provide abortive and the lender banks are closing in to take over following default in loan facility agreements with the consortium of banks in Nigeria.

Serkan Okandan, Chief Financial Officer of Etisalat Group, who issued the announcement by the UAE mobile phone group, and operators of the Etialat Nigeria said that both parties have reached a deal to commence transfer of ownership to the banks by 5.00pm on Friday June 23, 2017, a development that has since sparked concerns over the future of the mobile phone company.

But Tony Ojobo, spokesman of the NCC drew the attention of the lender banks to the Section 38 and Sub section 1 of the NCA which spells out that, “The grant of a license shall be personal to the licensee and the license shall not be operated by, assigned, sub licensed or transferred to another party unless the prior written approval of the commission has been granted;”

Ojobo, said that the lenders banks must take note of relevant provision of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003 as well as relevant provisions of the laws guiding the transfer of licences issued operators by the telecoms regulator.

According to the NCC, Sub Section 2 of the same provision equally states that, “A licensee shall at all times comply by the terms and condition of the license and the provision of this act and its subsidiary legislation.”

Ojobo, who said that NCC is aware of the indebtedness of Etisalat Nigeria to the consortium of banks says that the telecoms regulator and its banking counterpart, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), “mediated by holding several meetings with the banks, Etisalat and other stakeholders with a view to finding a resolution.”

Despite the efforts of the two industry regulators of Federal Government, “regrettably these meetings did not yield the desired results”, he said.

“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”, according to the telecoms regulator.

According to Ojobo, “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 toward negotiated settlement.”

“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”, Ojobo added.

According to him, “in view of the recent 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.”

 

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