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NITEL: BPE Stalls Transcorp, Vodacom Talks

By Everest Amaefule

The consummation of talks between Transnational Corporation and Vodacom may have to wait until the Bureau of Pubic Enterprises decides which investor takes control of 24 per cent stake in the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited.

Transcorp, which had been offered 75 per cent equity in NITEL on July 3, 2006 for $750m, ended up with 51 per cent when it could not make full payment after a period of grace it granted by BPE.

A source at Transcorp, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the corporation was no longer insisting on bringing in Vodacom of South Africa into partnership to run NITEL.
Instead, according to the source, the company has positioned itself to work with any company that BPE finally gives the nod to buy the 24 per cent even though it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the percentage of its shares to be sold to Vodacom.

The new stand of Transcorp followed its failure to persuade the privatisation agency to revalidate the 24 per cent equity in NITEL, which the BPE had voided.
There has been ongoing negotiation for Transcorp to part with a reasonable portion of its 51 per cent stake in NITEL to enable Vodacom acquire equity in the First National Carrier.

Transcorp badly needs the injection of capital in order to save the ailing NITEL and its mobile subsidiary, the Nigerian Mobile Telecommunications Limited. This has informed its desire to part with some of its shares.
Lack of capital had also forced Transcorp out of the Bluestar Oil Services Consortium, which on Monday took over 51 per cent equity in both Kaduna and Port Harcourt petroleum refineries.

Our correspondent learnt that Alheri Engineering Company Limited, a member of the Dangote Group, looks set to acquire the 24 per cent equity.
The company, which recently acquired a third generation licence from the Nigerian Communications Commission, seriously wants a platform to roll out a mobile network before it could build a 3G network.

Apart from financial resources, Alheri is also bringing its 3G licence to the discussion table as the Nigerian Mobile Telecommunications Limited is the only digital mobile operator that failed to acquire a 3G licence.
The calculation is that M-Tel will be totally out of reckoning when existing mobile operators roll out their third generation networks, thus, the need for Alheri to be brought into the M-Tel business.

Besides, the Dangote Group wields both political influence and financial clout that has seen it acquire equity in major companies recently put on sale by the BPE.

When contacted on the telephone, BPE’s Director-General, Mrs. Irene Chigbue, denied that the privatisation agency had discussed with any company on the 24 per cent equity in NITEL.

Source: punch