• Monday, February 26, 2024
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Brymedia initiates fresh bid for NITEL, targets NCC’s new licences

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A fresh drive to buy ailing Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) is been initiated by Brymedia, according to TechnologyTimes. This new move, would see the second reserve bidder in the failed 2010 sale, emerge as a serious contender in the ongoing phased liquidation of assets of the ailing first national operator.

Analysts suggest that Brymedia is strategically positioning itself to play actively in the Nigerian Communications Commission’s (NCC) new broadband market structure.The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), had opted for a phased liquidation of NITEL after another unsuccessful privatisation programme in 2010 that would have resulted in divestment of 75 percent stakes in the public-owned telecoms company to willing buyers.

Giving cogent reasons for its decision to adopt guided liquidation in the sale, the BPE said the state-owned telecom company’s’ liabilities far outweigh their current value.

In the botched 2010 sale of NITEL, New Generation Consortium, made up of China Unicom of Hong Kong, Minerva Group of Dubai and Nigeria’s GiCell Wireless Limited, emerged preferred bidder for NITEL and its mobile subsidiary, M-TEL with an offer of $2.5 billion; Omen International, emerged reserve bidder, with $956,996,091 while Brymedia emerged second reserve with $550 million. Adrian Wood, chief executive officer of Brymedia, said in an interview that its revised plan for NITEL is part of a two-pronged drive for dual stakes in Nigeria’s vibrant telecoms industry.

Brymedia has opened talks with the liquidation manager appointed by the BPE, as part of its renewed bid. The firm, according to TechnologyTimes, has set its sights on critical assets of NITEL to put in pole position to make a daring move to acquire the NCC’s wholesale wireless license, which is part of the proposed restructuring of the broadband infrastructure market. If this license is acquired, analyst say, Brymedia will be looking at transforming the moribund company into the wholesale broadband provider in Nigeria. Brymedia has disclosed plans to join the race for planned auction of a 2.3GHz spectrum. An Information Memorandum which defines the process for the licensing of 30 MHz unpaired spectrum in the 2.3 GHz band has been published.

It provides information on the Nigerian telecoms market, details of the spectrum to be made available, the pre-qualification process, the Auction process and indicative timetable.

The commission has also announced a N3.6billion ($23m) reserve price for the auctions billed to be completed by March this year. Wood said Brymedia is in a race for the two niches stakes in the telecoms industry. This, he added is because they both align with the consortium’s strategic plan to participate in the wholesale market space that will transform NITEL into a “carrier’s carrier.” Contrary to the 2010 privatisation programme when bidders targeted 75 per cent stakes of NITEL, Brymedia is refocusing its direction in the area of key assets of the pioneer national operator under the new liquidation plan, Wood told Technology Times.

“In February 2010 we were the second reserve bidder and third highest bid and it is history that the first two dropped out and we were ready to proceed. We have our investors and international technical partners. For reasons that I guess surprised us, the BPE terminated the process”, Wood said. According to him, “in August 2011, they (BPE) wrote us a letter inviting us for discussion, so we prepared a timetable but nothing happened and as you know in 2012 the government decided to devise the liquidation and they appointed a liquidator. We have been following the process. We never offered to buy the shares of NITEL. We have always wanted to buy the assets of NITEL.” Wood outlines that to achieve its strategic drive to use NITEL to transform the broadband fortunes of Nigeria, the consortium eyes key assets of the company.

One of them is what he cites as NITEL’s “spectrum portfolio” that includes the frequency bands used to offer fixed, mobile, CDMA services as well as “quite some few microwave frequency.” Another category is NITEL’s special infrastructure, which Wood reckons include about 554 GSM towers and some 251 transmission systems across the country, which though have non-functional electronics but can still be reactivated. According to him, NITEL also has “technical properties with some form of switch or some forms of cable termination in every state and every major city in Nigeria and these are places where you put in fiber termination point and fiber access equipment.”

Add that to SAT-3, the first undersea cable landed in Nigeria which is part-owned by the Nigerian telecoms company alongside a consortium of African incumbent operators and equipment suppliers which Wood notes that tied with other assets reflects “what the value of NITEL is right now.” Citing non-disclosure agreements with some of his technical partners and co-investors in the Brymedia consortium, he did not name the specific members of the team but hints that its new technical partner is a major operator from Asia. Wood, who is the Founder and Director of Brymedia Group, believes that the broadband programme being championed by President Goodluck Jonathan, who has mapped out the Presidential Broadband Plan to deepen penetration of high speed Internet services in the country, will deliver on its promises.

By: Ben Uzor Jr, with wire report