Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has invited Omen International Consortium, the reserve bidder for state-run incumbent telco Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL), to reregister its interest in buying the operator, after preferred buyer New Generation Telecommunications repeatedly failed to meet the payment deadlines.
The British Virgin Islands-registered Omen consortium, which includes China Unicom and Fiber Home Technologies Limited, submitted a bid of USD956.9 million for a 75% stake in NITEL and it mobile arm M-Tel during the latest attempt to privatise the company, held in February 2010. The government began seeking a buyer for a minimum 75% of NITEL and 100% of M-Tel in July 2009 after previous majority shareholder Transcorp divested its stake earlier in the year.
Reuters reports that the BPE has now written to Omen asking if it would be interested in revalidating its reserve bidder status. ‘If your bid is revalidated, it would give the Federal Government the right to invite your consortium or enter into negotiations to take up the offer,’ the letter said, according to a BPE statement.
New Generation’s bid of USD2.5 billion was approved in October 2010, after an investigation into the bidding process led to an eight-month delay. The New Generation consortium – which comprises Minerva Group of Dubai, Nigeria’s GiCell Wireless and technical partner China Unicom – was asked to pay a bid security of USD750 million within ten days from 25 October and was given 60 days to pay the remaining USD1.75 billion. On 5 November the bid security deadline was extended by 20 working days and subsequently to 23 December 2010, after the consortium failed to come up with the funds in time.
However, New Generation failed to meet its extended payment deadline, and in January 2011 the BPE revoked the sale to New Generation and recommended Omen be invited to acquire NITEL, following approval from the National Council of Privatisation (NCP).