Court Sacks 9mobile Board Over $35m Investment

Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Lagos has nullified the appointment of an interim board for Emerging Markets Telecommunications Service (EMTS), owners of 9mobile (formerly Etisalat), the fourth largest telecommunications service operator in Nigeria.

The judge gave the verdict on Friday in a ruling on an application by a firm, Spectrum Wireless Communication Ltd, which claimed it invested $35 million in EMTS/Etisalat in 2009.

United Capital, which is the umbrella body of all the 13 banks being owed $1.2 billion by 9mobile, is expected to file an appeal today against the court’s verdict, New Telegraph has learnt.

Already, the Friday’s ruling may have put the ongoing sale process of 9mobile to preferred bidder or investor in shambles as one of the investors, Spectrum Wireless (SW), has now issued a “buyers beware” notice to potential investors. Spectrum Wireless is one of the non-bank investors of EMTS when the latter started operations in Nigeria in 2009 and put a $35 million investment in the then Etisalat.

The investment, it was gathered, represents 17.5 per cent of the total investment in the telecom company. Other three non-bank investment produced the initial $100 million that helped Etisalat to embark on massive rollout during its entry into Nigeria’s telecoms industry.

Following the exit of Etisalat and its directors in unclear circumstances in June 2017 from EMTS, United Capital initiated action and obtained an exparte order of July 3, 2017 to appoint a Transitional Board to superintend over the affairs of the company. The Transitional Board rebranded the company as 9mobile and announced a bid for the sale of the company to interested investors.

The bid was intended to be concluded with handover of EMTS to the preferred or successful bidder by December 31, 2017, but has since been extended to January 16, 2018. Concerned that United Capital’s action did not take their stake in EMTS into consideration, other (non-bank) investors in EMTS, led by Spectrum Wireless, approached the court last December 2017 to challenge the ex-parte order granted in favour of United Capital.

According to the solicitors to Spectrum Wireless Communication Limited, O Atabo & Co and J. A. Achimugu, by virtue of the judgement, the trustee nominee of the board of EMTS has been nullified and the order appointing them vacated. The solicitors warned that any institution or company who transacts business for the purpose of sale or acquisition of EMTS or 9mobile does so at his or her own risk.

Written by Jay

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