9mobile, the mobile operator formerly known as Etisalat Nigeria, has appointed Citigroup and Standard Bank to find an investor to buy into the firm, and three companies have shown interest, a banking source close to the deal said on Tuesday.
India’s Bharti Airtel, which already has a presence in Nigeria, as well as Britain’s Vodafone and French telecom company, Orange, had shown interest, the source told Reuters.
“These are still early interest signals but they are looking at the company as an attractive entry strategy,” the source said.
Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said earlier on Tuesday that advisers had been appointed to manage the sale of 9mobile, which was the fourth-largest mobile operator in sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest economy and most populous nation.
The central bank and Nigeria’s telecoms regulator intervened this month to save the company from collapse and prevent creditors putting it into receivership, leading to a change in its board and management, as well as the new name 9mobile.
9mobile has 20 million subscribers with a 14 per cent share of the Nigerian market. South Africa’s MTN is the market leader with 47 per cent, Nigeria’s Globacom has 20 per cent and Bharti Airtel’s local subsidiary has 19 per cent.
9mobile declined to comment.
Citigroup, Standard Bank, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Orange were not immediately available to comment.
Emefiele, speaking after the central bank’s policy meeting on Tuesday, said 9mobile’s revenue was stable and it made N16bn ($52.5m) in June. The governor said the company had not lost subscribers due to its debt crisis.