By Emeka Anaeto and Prince Osuagwu
Pressures from 13 Nigerian banks and their overseas partners have forced the exit of the foreign investors in Etisalat Nigeria, just as the creditor banks move to formally take over the telecom company's management.
But Etisalat Nigeria said negotiation with the banks on outstanding indebtedness was still on-going as at yesterday, while a major equity restructuring gets underway.
The Nigerian banks in the USD1.7 billion debt web include Access Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, FirstBank, Zenith Bank, Union Bank, United Bank for Africa,UBA, and Ecobank.
Others are FCMB, Stanbic IBTC, Fidelity Bank, Keystone Bank, FSDH Merchant Bank and Mainstreet Bank.
The banks are expected to assume management of the company to recover their monies, following failure of the debt management and restructuring earlier worked out this year.
This failure, Vanguard learned, had prompted the foreign shareholder to announce a pull out, yesterday, with the Nigerian company, describing the pull out as the first step towards a full equity restructuring.
The consortium, comprising Nigerian and foreign banks, said it got the approval to take over the management of Etisalat Nigeria, effective June 15, but decided to extend enforcement of the order to June 23, 2017 after which Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services, EMTS, may have completed transfer of the 100 percent of the company's shares in Etisalat to the United Capital Trustees Limited, the legal representative of the consortium of banks.
The takeover followed the collapse of the efforts by EMTS to reach agreement with the banks on restructuring plan for the $1.72 billion (about N541.8 billion) debt.
Etisalat has been under pressure since 2016, following the demand notice for the recovery of loan facility it obtained from the consortium in 2015.
The loan, which the telecom company obtained to finance a major network rehabilitation and expansion of its operational base in Nigeria, involved a foreign-backed guaranty bond.
Etisalat said it was not able to meet its debt servicing obligations due to stringent forex policy and recession in Nigeria but appealed for a restructuring plan.
However, the Nigerian banks, prodded by their foreign partners, threatened to take over the company and its assets across the country.
But the intervention of the telecom sector regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, and its financial sector counterpart, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, persuaded the banks to rethink their threat and give Etisalat a chance to renegotiate the loan's repayment schedule.