Nigerian telecom operator 9mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria, is facing turbulent times. A Lagos high court in Nigeria ordered the board of the operator's parent company, Emerging Markets Telecommunications Service (EMTS), to disband, after a judge claimed it had been established without authority.
The court's decision was made after Spectrum Wireless Communication, a company that invested $35 million in EMTS in 2009, claimed the board's approval was not in line with its interests and called for its contributions to the operator to be recognized. Now, United Capital Trustees, which is handling the sale of 9mobile, is appealing the court order.
The sale of 9mobile was entrusted to United Capital Trustees after it defaulted on repayments of a $1.2 billion load that was given to it by multiple banks. The Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) supported the EMTS board, and had received bids from five parties for the sale of 9mobile.
The sale of 9mobile was extended in early January 2018 by the NCC to January 16 after the original closing date passed with no final decision. Reports speculate that the decision will likely be further delayed after a Spectrum Wireless Communication solicitor said anyone "who transacts business for the purpose of sale or acquisition of EMTS or 9mobile does so at her own risk."
9mobile became a new brand in the Nigerian telecom market in mid-2017 after its previous owner, UAE telecom company Etisalat, and an investment fund, defaulted on a $1.2 billion loan. The operator, formerly known as Etisalat Nigeria, was saved by regulators. 9mobile is currently the fourth largest operator in Nigeria.