Nigeria: Microfone wants control of NITEL operations


Microfone Telecom Nigeria, an initiative of the Nigerian Capital Development Fund, is looking to take over the operations of fixed line incumbent Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL), after the latest attempt to sell the ailing telco was cancelled last month. Local newspaper The Punch reports that Microfone has submitted a letter of intent to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to assume the operations of NITEL, stating that it wishes ‘to provide services to the very poor but hardworking Nigerians in the remotest parts of the country.’ The letter continues: ‘We hereby request that you [the BPE] consider transferring NITEL to Nigerians via Microfone Telecom Nigeria Limited for the benefit of the grass roots, the poor and underserved majority of Nigerians. We have a solution-driven approach and ability to resolve the current NITEL ailments within a short time that will benefit the company and further prepare it for sale to any future prospective and serious buyer.’ Microfone added that it is prepared to offer the BPE a management and transformation contract that includes financing the development of NITEL and the sale of the company at the end of the contract period.

The latest attempt to privatise NITEL was cancelled last month when the reserve bidder, British Virgin Islands-based Omen International, failed to meet the deadline to pay a bid security. Omen was invited to re-register its interest in buying NITEL in March 2011, after preferred buyer New Generation Telecommunications repeatedly missed the payment deadlines for its bid of USD2.5 billion. Omen offered USD956.9 million during the latest attempt to privatise the company, held in February 2010. The government began seeking a buyer for a minimum 75% of NITEL and 100% of M-Tel in July 2009 after previous majority shareholder Transcorp divested its stake earlier in the year. The BPE is now reportedly considering other options for NITEL, including setting a minimum price and offering it to the remaining bidders, as well as liquidating the struggling company, or restarting the whole bidding process again.