The battle for 9mobile is not yet over.
The Reserved bidder, Smile Communications, a subsidiary of Smile Telecoms Holdings, is pushing ahead with its bid to snatch the prize.
Its Executive Director (Operations) Mr. Ahmad Farroukh said Smile has all it takes to reposition 9mobile and make it attractive and competitive again within 90 days.
Farroukh who spoke to reporters in Lagos at the weekend, said 9mobile deserves the best and should be sold to an existing telecoms company with the right technical expertise and financial strength to turn it around for the highly competitive market in few months.
According to Farroukh, Smile will bring three dimensional values to 9mobile if it is allowed to take its possession. “The first value is that we are Nigerian company already existing in the Nigerian telecoms space. So we will come up with our existing assets to boost the 9mobile operations.
We will seek the permission of NCC (Nigerian Communications Commission) to flip our existing 800MHz frequency to 9mobile to enhance its operations. What we are bringing to 9mobile is huge.
“The 800MHz frequency, which Smile Communications currently operates on, will be added to that of 9mobile to achieve the best frequency ever that will serve the customers better and help 9mobile to come out of its current challenges. Without exaggerating, we are sure to add additional 600 Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) of Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, into the operations of 9mobile within a space of 90 days, if given the opportunity to acquire it.
“We will from day one, integrate our existing facilities with that of 9mobile to get the company back to its good old days, when it was the best voice and data telecoms company in Nigeria. 9mobile currently has 500 BTS across the country, and by the time we add our 400 existing BTS and combine it with the 600 BTS that we can provide within 90 days, 9mobile will be having approximately 1,500 BTS, which will match the number of BTS that the largest telecoms operator in the country currently has. So should we acquire 9mobile, we will make it competitive from day one with unprecedented speed of service delivery.
“The second value that we will bring to 9mobile is the monetary value. We will bring in fresh millions of dollars from foreign financing outside Nigeria, into 9mobile to pay off its indebtedness to the banks and also pay off any other group that the company is indebted to, and we will still have enough to invest in 9mobile and make it competitive. Let me tell you that several countries around the world still believe in the Nigeria story and we will reach out to them to get fresh funds to invest in 9mobile.”
The third dimensional value that Smile Telecoms Holdings will bring to 9mobile, according to Farroukh, is about the firm’s long standing experience in telecoms business.
“I have handled telecoms business in Nigeria, including being the CEO of MTN Nigeria from 2006 to 2011, before I was appointed as Director to oversee the MTN West African operations, before joining Smile Communications. Nigeria has made me what I am today and I am grateful to God and to Nigeria.
In Smile Communications and Smile Telecoms Holdings, we have seasoned telecoms experts and we are bringing that expertise to 9mobile if given the opportunity to acquire it. We are convinced that our three dimensional values will make 9mobile a successful company if we are allowed to manage it,” Farroukh said.
On 9mobile’s indebtedness to banks, he said Smile was much aware and had a strategy to resolve it. “Yes we are very much aware of the debt profile of 9mobile and we are capable of handling it. What we intend doing, if given the opportunity to manage the telecoms company, is to split the debts and give a time frame to offset them.
As for the banks who are the biggest creditors to 9mobile, we will ensure that they do not lose any money. We will enter into an agreement with them on the modalities of payment and we will surely pay them. We will come up with debt restructuring for both the banks and the vendors and they will get back their money.
With 9mobile, we want to be the best data centric operator in Nigeria and we are sure we can achieve it,” he said.
Smile Telecoms isthe Reserved Bidder on the sale of 9mobile, handled by Barclays. The company has however expressed some concerns over the handling of the transaction and has since written to express those concerns to Barclays.