Chairman of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), and member, National Council on Privatisation (NCP), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, said last week that the negotiations for the sale of NITEL to Orascom were inconclusive "because the company offered far below the reserved price."

Last week, Orascom Telecom Holding SAE was declared winner in the bid for Federal Government's 51 per cent shareholding in Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) with a price of US$256.53 million.

But el-Rufai in an interview with THISDAY last week explained that as a member of the NCP and as the former Director General of the Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE), he was satisfied with the bidding process, even though Orascom's offer was below the reserved price.He, however, added that the NCP could still cancel the transaction if the government felt that Orascom was not averse to a renegotiation of the sale price to meet up with the reserved price.

In his words, "I think that the process went very well. I think NITEL should be sold. The price is a little disappointing, but that is a matter for negotiation and I think there is room for negotiations."

Newtel Consortium, which was the only other contender in the attempt to sell off NITEL, had made a dramatic pull-out after the first round of bidding.

The consortium had in the first round bided US$154.961 million for the national carrier, which was higher than the price of ORASCOM Telecom at $127.5 million. Those in the race initially included MTN Group Ltd; Newtel International Ltd; Telkom SA Ltd; Orascom Telecom Holding; Celtel International BV and; Jazuc Group/Huawei Technologies.

This Day