Etisalat Nigeria CEO Focused on Stabilizing Business Before Sale

LAGOS (Capital Markets in Africa) – Etisalat Nigeria is concentrating on steadying the business rather than finding a new operator as the struggling mobile-phone company strives to stay afloat after its Abu Dhabi-based former owners defaulted on a $1.2 billion loan. 

“The biggest thing we have to do is stabilize the business, try and ensure a good top-line, put some level of control on costs,” Chief Executive Officer Boye Olusanya said in an interview at the wireless carrier’s headquarters in Lagos, the commercial hub. “Whether there’s a sale or not — that’s down the line. There must be a business doing well.”

Olusanya was brought in as CEO last week to replace Matthew Willsher after a consortium of banks seized control of a 45 percent stake from Emirates Telecommunications Corp. of Abu Dhabi. All Etisalat Nigeria offices, outlets and customer-care services across the country are in full operation, the company said in a statement last Tuesday.

A sale process doesn’t need to be announced for potential buyers to make their interest known, the CEO said. The valuation will depend on what offers are put on the table, he said.

Etisalat props up the rankings of Nigeria’s four biggest operators with 19.6 million subscribers at the end of March, less than a third of the number of customers signed up to market leader MTN Group Ltd. The company was a late entrant to the market, putting it at a disadvantage, while foreign-exchange dominated costs have doubled as the naira weakened, according to new Chief Financial Officer Funke Ighodaro.

A more pressing concern than a sale process may be the need for a rebranding. Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat has set a deadline of July 21 to complete negotiations about the brand name, which is used in 14 other countries outside the U.A.E., from Sri Lanka to Burkina Faso.

“We are intensifying efforts aimed at reaching full closure on ongoing discussions with regards the transition phase,” Etisalat Nigeria said. “We want to assure that our customers and stakeholders will be duly informed as soon as these are concluded, including details of a rebranding, should that become necessary.”

Source: Bloomberg Business News


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