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Why Adenuga’s Globacom Cannot Afford 9mobile

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These are definitely not the best of times for the flamboyant Nigerian billionaire, Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Ishola Adenuja, Jr as mounting telecommunications debts and Globacom’s expulsion from Benin Republic suggests that he is cash-strapped.

With millions of dollars in unpaid outstanding telecommunication fees due to the federal government of Nigeria, Globacom (Glo), which is wholly owned by the businessman, clearly does not have the cash to acquire 9 mobile (formerly Etisalat), THEWILL can authoritatively report.

Globacom alongside Airtel, Smile Communications, Helios, and Teleology Holdings Limited are the preferred bidders for the troubled 9mobile.

The deadline for submissions of binding offers was set for January 16, 2018 after an initial extension was made at the instance of the Interim Board of 9mobile. The sale process is being managed by Barclays Africa.

A breakdown of Globacom’s indebtedness to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which THEWILL exclusively obtained shows that the company is yet to pay $282 million dollars for its GSM license renewal fees. Glo’s license, which is renewable every 10 years, expired last year.

Globacom has also been unable to pay over N1.4bn owed the NCC in outstanding fees for the frequency spectrum license that it holds. The fees have been due since November 2017, according to THEWILL checks at the NCC.

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How Adenuga plans to raise at least $1bn to acquire 9mobile, which owes a consortium of Nigerian banks about $1.2bn in loans, with its crippling indebtedness to government remains a façade, insiders told THEWILL.

Globacom’s financial troubles have been mounting for a while according to sources familiar with the company’s operations. The company was tossed out of Benin Republic in December after it failed to pay up to renew its operational license. It had more than 1.6 million subscribers as at 2015, according to information on the website of Autorite De Regulation Des Communications Électroniques Et De La Poste (ARCEP)-Benin, the regulator in the border country.

THEWILL also recalls that Globacom holds Nigeria’s second National Operator license and has been able to fund the deployment of fixed land lines as stipulated under the terms of the license due to cash constrains.

Adenuga is not a stranger to controversies. In 2001, his first attempt to acquire a GSM license under his investment vehicle, Communications Investments Limited (CIL) was a complete disaster, costing him to lose his bid deposit of $20m due to his inability to pay the $265m license fees within the timeline set by the government during Nigeria’s first open GSM license auction.

Subscriber statistics from the NCC as at June 2017 places Globacom with about 37m subscribers as the second biggest operator, with MTN coming first with 58m, Airtel with about 34million and 9mobile with about 19m.

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The NCC in a recent statement explaining how the winning bid for 9mobile will be announced after dismissing some news reports that Globacom had been chosen as buyer for 9mobile, said the winner will be announced after Barclays has reviewed the bids and made “recommendations to the 9Mobile Interim Board thereafter.”

“The NCC and CBN will be duly notified once the 9Mobile Interim Board accepts Barclays’ recommendations and a winning bid is determined in accordance with the terms of the exercise.

“The winner will now apply to NCC in order to commence the processes for securing the regulatory approvals from the Board of the NCC necessary to give full effect to the transfer.”

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