Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has announced that New Generation Telecommunications, a consortium involving China Unicom, has become the preferred buyer for indebted incumbent fixed line operator Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL), after beating four other firms with a bid of USD2.5 billion. Other companies with an interest in New Generation have been named by the BPE as Dubai-based Minerva Group and local company GiCell Wireless. After the bid is approved by the privatisation council, the group will have ten days to pay 30% of the purchase price and a further 50 days to pay the remaining sum. The reserve bidder has been announced as Omen International (BVI), which offered USD956 million. As reported by CommsUpdate, financial bids for the privatisation of NITEL opened on 16 February 2010, but only six of the 14 pre-qualified consortia met the 5 February deadline for the submission of technical and financial proposals: Brymedia; AF21/Spectrum consortium; MTN Nigeria; Globacom Nigeria; Omen International; and New Generation Telecommunications.
The federal government began seeking a buyer for a minimum 75% of NITEL and 100% of its mobile unit M-Tel in July 2009 after previous majority shareholder Transcorp divested its stake earlier in the year. Prospective investors were invited to acquire either at least 75% equity in the entire NITEL conglomerate or a stake in one or several of its components, including M-Tel, submarine fibre-optic cable division SAT-3, the company’s domestic fixed line infrastructure, its national fibre-optic transmission backbone, and its CDMA network. South Africa’s MTN was among the bidders, but only for a stake in the SAT-3 underwater cable, for which it offered USD25 million. According to local daily Leadership, Globacom was disqualified from the process as it already holds a licence as Nigeria’s second national carrier.