A consortium of banks, led by Access Bank PLC and other Nigerian and foreign banks, has taken over the management of Etisalat Nigeria, effective since June 15.

The takeover followed the collapse of the effort by Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services, EMTS, promoted by-one time Chairman, United Bank for Africa, UBA, Hakeem Bello-Osagie, to reach agreement with the banks on debt restructuring plan in the protracted $1.72 billion (about N541.8 billion) debt impasse.

Access Bank Plc and other Nigerian banks eventually took over the management of the company, effective June 15 after a protracted $1.2 billion debt impasse. Other lenders in the loan deal are Zenith Bank, GTBank, First Bank, UBA, Fidelity Bank, Ecobank, FCMB, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Union Bank.

However, EMTS Holding BV, established in the Netherlands, has up to June 23 to complete the transfer of 100 percent of the company’s shares in Etisalat to the United Capital Trustees Limited, the legal representative of the consortium of banks.

Etisalat Group, the parent company of Etisalat Nigeria, announced the takeover on Tuesday in a filing to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirate.

The filing, with reference number Ho/GCFO/152/85, and dated June 20, 2017 signed by Etisalat Group Chief Financial Officber, Serkan Okandan, said efforts by EMTS to restructure the repayment of the syndicated loan by a consortium of banks to Etisalat Nigeria collapsed.

“Further to our announcement dated 12 February, 2017, Emirates Telecommunications Group Company PJSC, “Etisalat Group” would like to inform you that Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services Limited “EMTS” (“the company), established in Nigeria and an associate of Etisalat Group with effective ownership of 45% and 25% ordinary and preference shares respectively, defaulted on a facility agreement with a syndicate of Nigerian banks (“EMTS Lenders”).

“Subsequently, discussions between EMTS and the EMTS Lenders did not produce an agreement on a debt restructuring plan.

“Accordingly, the Company received a default and security Enforcement Notice on 9 June 2017 requesting EMTS Holding BV (EMTS BV) established in the Netherlands, and through which Etisalat Group holds its interest in the company) requiring EMTS BV to transfer 100% of its shares in the company to the United Capital Trustees Limited (the Security Trustee”) of the EMTS Lenders by 15 June 2017.

In a statement by its Director of Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo, NCC said the commission was aware of the indebtedness of Etisalat to the consortium of banks, it mediated by holding several meetings with the banks, the telecoms company and other stakeholders with a view to finding a resolution. “Regrettably, these meetings did not yield the desired results,” it said.

The commission promised to do all within its regulatory power to ensure that subscribers continue to enjoy the services provided by the operator.

The Commission said it had taken proactive steps to cushion the impact of the takeover, this is without prejudice to the ongoing effort between Etisalat and the banks towards a negotiated settlement.

Etisalat writes staff, assures them after takeover

In a message to all staff of the company, the Chief Executive of Etisalat Nigeria, Mathew Willsher, acknowledged the challenging business outlook for the company in the wake of the ongoing takeover by a consortium of banks, but said its negotiations allowed the refocus of its energies on the financial, operational and strategic priorities to help the company emerge better and stronger from its current position.

Titled: “A Message From the CEO” from TopTalk, and addressed to all staff, Mr. Willsher said since the news broke in February of the negotiations by the company with a consortium of banks for the loan repayment, most of staff were understandably anxious about the future of the company and the place of the workers in it.

Despite the uncertainty of the period, he said the company had kept faith with the business, by focusing on the customers, delivering results and supporting each other through change.

In the face of the challenges, the CEO said he was proud that the staff continued to apply their strengths in service, results and internal support to move the business forward on a daily basis.

“Our renegotiation with the banks are not yet over. But, our shareholding structure is evolving,” Mr. Willsher announced to the staff.

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