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29 November 2023

China Unicom and Minerva group bid $2.5bn for Nitel

Nigeria is one of the world's fastest-growing telecom markets. (AFP)

By Reuters

A consortium involving China Unicom and Minerva Group of Dubai bid $2.5 billion (Dh9.18bn) yesterday for the former state telecoms monopoly in Nigeria, one of the world's fastest growing markets, said the privatisation body.

The National Council on Privatisation said New Generation Telecommunications had become the preferred bidder for Nitel, which Nigeria has struggled to sell since liberalisation in 2001 made it uncompetitive against rivals. The privatisation body said the consortium included China Unicom (Hong Kong), Minerva Group of Dubai and local company GiCell Wireless.

Their precise holdings in the consortium were not immediately available.

China, Africa's biggest trading partner, has invested billions of dollars in the continent in recent years, going far beyond its emphasis on mineral extraction.

Nigeria invited expressions of interest in July for a minimum of a 75 per cent stake in the Nitel conglomerate or a stake in one or several of its components, including mobile arm Mtel, the South Atlantic Terminal underwater cable (SAT-3) and its fixed line network.

After the bid is approved by the privatisation council, the group will have 10 days to pay 30 per cent of the purchase price and a further 50 days to pay the rest. The reserve bidder was Omen International (BVI) with a bid of $956 million.

"We will pay within the stipulated time. We did not make a hypothetical offer," said Abubakar Usman from New Generation.

South Africa's MTN was among the bidders, but only for a stake in the SAT-3 underwater cable.

Nigeria has overtaken South Africa to become the biggest telecoms market in Africa.


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