The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it favours “consolidation” in the telecom industry — a stand that will be good news to two companies bidding for 9mobile.
Sunday Dare, the executive commissioner for stakeholders management, told TheCable on Monday that “consolidation is in the best interest of the industry” and hinted that this will play a key role in determining who finally gets to buy the nation’s fourth largest operator.
“Nigeria can learn a lot from the Indian telecom experience of consolidation and market competition in the development of the telecom market. The consumer in India now enjoys lots of benefits and cheap data,” he said.
India has seen the number of operators consolidate from over 20 to just three.
9mobile, formerly known as Etisalat, was put up for sale following a debt crisis.
Barclays Africa, the transaction advisers, reportedly shortlisted five bidders ahead of the newly approved February 16, 2018 deadline to wrap up the deal.
The shortlist includes Teleology Holdings Limited, promoted by Adrian Wood, the pioneer CEO of MTN Nigeria; Smile Telecoms Holdings, a telco operating in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo DR and South Africa; and Helios Investment Partners LLP, an investment company.
Others are Bharti Airtel, an Indian telco that owns Airtel Nigeria, and Globacom, the Nigerian company owned by Mike Adenuga Jnr.
Both Airtel and Globacom have a strong foothold in Nigeria and if NCC insists on industry consolidation, one of them would get it.
The consolidation option being pursued by NCC means either Airtel or Globacom would become the largest operator at the end of the 9mobile sale exercise.
Glo is currently the second largest operator with 37 million voice and 26.8 million internet subscribers, according to the October 2017 statistics from NCC.
If it acquires 9mobile, it will immediately become the biggest network by adding 17 million to voice and 11.5 million to internet subscription base.
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Combined, the new entity’s 54 million voice lines and 38.3 million internet subscriptions will surpass MTN Nigeria’s 50.7 million and 32.5 million respectively.
Airtel, meanwhile, would automatically grow from being number three to number one by increasing its numbers to 52 million for voice and 33.5 million for internet if it is the preferred bidder.
NCC, the industry regulator which issues the licence, is expected to have a major say.
“Whoever emerges as the winner of the current process will undergo another due diligence regarding NCC compliance with licensing conditions, security checks and clearance and protection of national interest,” Dare said.
He refused to comment on if “national interest” automatically favours Glo.