By Chima Akwaja and Bukola Idowu, Lagos
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said it will, in collaboration with the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), intervene in the crisis between Etisalat and a consortium of 13 Nigerian banks over a syndicated loan of about $1.2 billion granted the telecoms company by the banks.
According to the apex bank, ithas become necessary for it to intervene in order to prevent job losses and asset stripping.
Confirming the intervention of the two regulators in the loan dispute, CBN Spokesman, Isaac Okorafor said, “Although it should ordinarily not be the role of a regulator to decide how individual bad loans are resolved, the CBN believes that Etisalat is a systemically important telecommunications company, with over 20 million subscribers and if not well handled, the crisis may have negative implications for the banking system itself”.
He further explained that the CBN and NCC, sensing that banks might go ahead in the usual way and downsize the company’s over 4,000 staff, reached an agreement to intervene and implore the consortium of banks to reassess its position in dealing with Etisalat.
Okorafor described some media reports insinuating that there the handwriting of CBN on the issue as “the height of mischief and insensitivity”.
He explained that the collaborative move by the regulators was aimed at preventing job losses and asset stripping and to ensure that Etisalat remains in business and is able to pay back the loans.
According to him, the CBN and the NCC, in the coming days, will meet with the syndicate of banks and the IHS Towers, the tower managers and the equipment suppliers, in order to achieve what he termed “a win-win outcome” for all stakeholders.
Etisalat has been embroiled in a feud with a consortium of 13 Nigerian Banks that gave it a facility of about US$1.2 billion, which the company has been unable to meet its repayment obligations in line with agreed terms of the facility.
Given the inability of Etisalat to come to an acceptable agreement with the banks, the largest shareholder in the company, Dubai-based Mubadala Development Company of the United Arab Emirates, has now pulled out of the company as well as the ongoing negotiations, leaving only their local partners, led by Hakeem Belo-Osagie, to carry the burden.
It is based on the attempt by the banks to take over the company that the financial and telecommunications regulators have moved in to intervene and forestall down-sizing and asset stripping.