*N541.8bn Debt: CBN, NCC To Meet Etisalat, Banks Friday
A consortium of some foreign and Nigerian banks on Wednesday took over Etisalat Nigeria after the telecommunications company failed to pay a loan totalling $1.72bn (about N541.8bn) it obtained in 2015.
The Nigerian banks are Guaranty Trust Bank, Access Bank and Zenith Bank. A former executive director at GTB, who was privy to details concerning the loan facility, told The PUNCH that the action became necessary since the Nigerian Communications Commission could not broker a peaceful resolution between Etisalat Nigeria and the banks.
According to him, the loan involved a foreign-backed guaranty bond and was given to Etisalat to finance a major network rehabilitation and expansion of its operational base in Nigeria. He said that after failing to service its debt since 2016, “the banks reported the company to the Central Bank of Nigeria and the NCC.”
The Ex-GTB executive director said Etisalat management was given the option of filing for bankruptcy but the telecoms firm refused to take the advice. This option, he said, would have required the banks just a management to oversee the telecoms firm’s operations. He said, “While all these were happening, the management at Guaranty Trust Bank and the other banks concerned had thought that the Nigerian Communications Commission would have used its powers as a regulator to bail the telco out, or advise them accordinly, but it became obvious that the NCC wasn’t so interested. It was merely buying time for Etisalat.”
Meanwhile, workers at Etisalat blamed the inability of the company to fulfil its obligation to the banks on the current economic recession in Nigeria. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one of the workers said,”While the management continued to blame the challenge on the economic recession, the banks replied that the Asset Management Company of Nigeria regulations demanding immediate cut down on the rate of their non-performing loans give them no other option.”
She added, “We saw this coming and that is why most of our colleagues, in the last six months, kept resigning.” Although the NCC is not happy with the takeover, a top source at the regulatory body said, “The commission was left with no option than to approve the takeover. The NCC on Tuesday, March 7, approved the takeover with effect from March 8.”