Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

Nigeria's Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) hopes to release a short-list of potential buyers for the controlling stake in Nitel, the state-owned fixed and mobile telecoms operator in that country, before the end of the month.

Asked how far along the process had come, the BPE, which is the department in charge of privatizing Nigeria's state assets, said in an emailed response that its privatization advisors BNP Paribas were evaluating the 20 applicants that had expressed an interest in the operator: "From their work plan, we hope to announce the shortlist before the end of May."

Interested bidders included Telkom and Vodacom, in a joint bid; Telkom for the fixed line operations, and Vodacom, for M-Tel, Nitel's wholly owned mobile operations. Other companies expressing an interest included Vodafone, MTN Nigeria, Dimension Data, Metallon, Celtel and Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, a subsidiary of Indian company Tata, which has also bought a stake in South Africa's soon-to-be licensed second network operator (SNO). See full list of expressions of interest (EOIs) below.

The BPE is offering a 51% stake in Nitel. This is part of the on-going privatisation process being undertaken by the Federal Government. It says the stake will be sold to a core group or strategic investor and then an initial public offering (IPO or listing) conducted.

The Nigerian Stock Exchange does not currently have any telecommunications listings, but MTN has also said in September last year that it was investigating a possible listing on that exchange, with the aim of introducing broader Nigerian shareholder participation, within a year (i.e. by this coming September).

Vodacom has said first prize for its entry into the Nigerian market would be to get its hands on the controlling stake of V-Mobile, but it also expressed an interest in M-Tel to broaden its options. Other parties interested in V-Mobile include Econet and Virgin, and it in not yet clear who will win that race.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) regulates the Nigerian telecoms sector, and the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 governs the sector. The BPE said with the Act, potential investors in Nitel would "have confidence that the sector will operate in a controlled and predictable manner".

The full list of companies that has expressed an interest in Nitel:

1. CelTel International B.V.
2. NewTel International
3. Z.T.E Corporation
4. Metallon Corporation of South Africa
5. Dimension Data
6. Huawei Technologies Company Ltd.
7. Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL India)
8. Vodafone Group Services Limited, England
9. MTN Nigeria Comm. Limited
10. Tel Africa Group U.K.
11. ACME Global/General Dynamic, USA
12. Meridian Global Telecom, UK
13. Trigger Development Limited, London, UK
14. Surburdan Telecom
15. Primus Capital Limited
16. Universal Link Inc.
17. Telkom South Africa/Vodacom
18. Global Infrastructure Holdings Limited, Dubai
19. F. T. Networks Limited
20. Name not specified on envelope