By CHIMA AKWAJA,
Contrary to the widely reported misrepresentations about Etisalat Nigeria’s debt obligation to the consortium of 13 banks, facts emerged yesterday that the actual amount being owed the lenders by the telecommunication firm is $500million (N165bn).
Checks by our correspondent revealed that Etisalat has serviced the $1.2bn loan by more than half of the total amount being owed its creditors since 2013 and what actually remained to be paid is far less the amount being reported in the media.
“The actual outstanding on the Etisalat loan is about $500m (i.e. N165bn). This is in view of the fact that Etisalat has efficiently serviced the $1.2bn loan up until earlier this year when discussions with the banks regarding the repayment restructuring commenced. I can confirm to you in confidence that the company has made repayment of over 50 per cent of the original loan so far”, a source within the banking consortium disclosed.
During a visit to the Etisalat’s corporate head office at Banana Island and its annex office at the Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, both in Lagos, our correspondent observed that normal activities were going on as workers went about their duties unhindered.
A senior management team of the company, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told our correspondent that the announcement by Emirates Telecommunications Group Company (that is The Etisalat Group) of Abu Dabhi, United Arabs Emirate to pull out of the Nigerian telecommunication arm was not a sign of bankruptcy or insolvency.
According to him, “What has effectively happened is a change in ownership and not a receivership, bankruptcy or winding up so operations will continue to run and subscribers can continue to access services on the network as usual.”
He further allayed fears of any job lose stating that there were no plans to lay off the staff of the company. He explained that, “the discussions with the banks have been on for a while and Etisalat has met its obligations to staff during this time. So long as the business continues, and from all indication it will, the company will sustain its side of the bargain.”
The senior official also assured that the company’s day-to-day operations would not be disrupted in any way and that subscribers would continue to enjoy excellent customer experience on its network during and after the transition period.
It would be recalled that the $1.2bn loan, a medium-term seven-year facility, was obtained by the company for the purpose of expanding its network and improving the quality of service on its network. Due to the economic downturn of 2015 and consequently sharp devaluations of the Naira which negatively impacted on the value dollar-denominated loan, Etisalat ran into difficulty in its repayment plan. This led the company to request the banks for loan restructuring, a request which did not go down well with the lenders.