Mubadala Development Company is planning to negotiate an exit from Etisalat Nigeria, previously the African telecom operator Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services (EMTS), by divesting its 30% stake holding, according to sources of the online TMT Finance.
The sources confirmed that the Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, which has partnered with Nigerian investors since 2008, has started holding discussions regarding a sale of the asset, while cautioning that the talks were “still at very early stage and extremely complex.”
The most likely anticipated scenario is that Mubadala will sell its stake to Etisalat, the largest shareholder with a stake of 40% stake.
According to TMT’s insiders, the main barrier to such a deal is Mubadala’s valuation expectation, which are said to be considered elevated.
The remaining 30% of the EMTS is held by Myacynth, a consortium of Nigerian investors.
However, before the deal to take place, EMTS needs to finish the execution of an ongoing transaction for the sale of its telecom towers in Nigeria. As this transaction is still currently underway, binding offers are only expected by mid-June in a process that Africa’s Standard Bank will be advising.
If enacted, the exit deal would be closely following Etisalat’s $5.8bn acquisition of Maroc Telecom from Vivendi SA in June – a transaction that also involved the shuffling in $650m in assets spread across Benin, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger and Togo.
January also saw the launch of $2bn plan to offload Nigerian transmitter towers by Indian Telco Bharti Airtel, after its acquirisition of the assets from the Kuwaiti telecom Zain.
“The continuing march of network sharing deals, coupled with consolidation in over-crowded markets, and the acquisition of systems integrators to support operators’ convergence strategies, are all a logical and direct consequence of declining growth rates in their legacy core telecoms business,” said Edwin Grummitt, MEA chief for Analysys Mason.
EMTS was launched commercially as Nigeria’s fifth mobile operator in 2008 by Mubadala with a $400m bundling of GSM frequencies and 15-year renewable unified access service licence (UASL), and is the fourth largest carrier in Nigeria with 16 million subscribers in 2013.
MTN remains the the market leader in the country, followed by Glo Mobile and Bharti Airtel.