NATCOM, a consortium of seven companies and investors, has emerged as the highest bidder for the assets of defunct state-owned incumbent Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL) and its mobile arm M-Tel, local newspaper This Day reports. A total of 17 firms expressed an interest in participating in the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE’s) guided liquidation process by the 30 June 2014 deadline, but only NATCOM and NETTAG Consortium were prequalified to proceed to the next stage. In the event, NATCOM offered USD252.25 million for the two operators, while NETTAG was disqualified for failing to include a USD10 million bid bond with its technical proposal. NATCOM, a special purpose entity set up for the acquisition of NITEL and M-Tel, comprises seven local and international companies and investors, including Olatunde Ayeni, who has interests in the energy and banking sectors. NATCOM is required to roll out services within the next three years and must make the initial payment of 30% of the total bid amount within 15 days and the remainder within 90 days.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that a number of recent attempts to privatise NITEL and its mobile unit M-Tel have been unsuccessful. In 2010 the preferred buyer of the telco, New Generation Telecommunications, failed to meet a number of deadlines to pay its USD2.5 billion offer, while reserve bidder Omen International also failed to come up with the USD956 million it offered for the company. In March 2012 the government approved the adoption of a ‘guided liquidation’ strategy for NITEL and M-Tel, with the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) saying that the process will protect the government from future claims and liabilities, as proceeds of the sale may be less than the value of the debt. NITEL is reported to owe creditors around NGN350 billion (USD2.1 billion).