Nigeria’s Telecoms Regulator Sees Deal In Etisalat Debt Talks

By Camillus Eboh


Nigeria’s financial and telecoms regulator said it agreed on Friday with local banks to end the prospect of receivership for mobile operator Etisalat Nigeria, which has missed a payment on a $1.2 billion loan.

A banking source told Reuters on Wednesday that the Nigerian affiliate of Abu Dhabi-listed telecoms company Etisalat had given notice to its Nigerian lenders that it would miss a payment in February. The two sides have not been able to agree on terms.

“Friday’s meeting succeeded in halting the attempt by Etisalat’s creditors at bringing it under any form of takeover,” the National Communications Commission (NCC) said in statement.

The central bank and the affected lenders took part in the meeting in Lagos. Central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele chaired the meeting.

“Receivership was completely taken off the table in a meeting that was very productive and constructive,” the NCC added.

It gave no details, but said a follow-up meeting on Thursday would discuss a restructuring of the loan payment.

“The banks and the mobile network operator agreed to concrete actions that will bring all parties closest to a resolution,” the NCC said.

The NCC also said the regulators will meet with Etisalat shareholders “anytime soon.”

The consortium of 13 banks had asked Etisalat to convert loans from its parent into equity and inject fresh capital into its Nigerian affiliate.

Etisalat and Etisalat Nigeria were not immediately available for comment.

The NCC had stepped in to avoid a receivership, which it worries could deter investors to the telecoms sector, while the central bank wants to avoid a wider debt crisis.

Etisalat is the biggest foreign victim of dollar shortages in Nigeria. Firms aggressively invested in the West African nation in the era of high oil prices, but now are struggling to repay loans or keep operating as the oil producer suffers from a slump in oil revenues, hitting its currency and dollars reserves.

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh, Chijioke Ohuocha and Ulf Laessing; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Leslie Adler)



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