Following a three-week ultimatum by Etisalat International, embattled Etisalat Nigeria on Thursday changed its name to ‘9Mobile’.
The name 9Mobile was approved at an executive meeting held in Lagos.
Early this week, Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Ltd. (EMTS) trading as Etisalat Nigeria assured its customers that a proposed change of brand name will not affect its operations.
With a subscriber base of 20 million, Etisalat Nigeria is the fourth mobile operator with a 14 percent market share in Nigeria.
Speaking on the development of the new brand name, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Boye Olusanya, said the telecom company is focused on getting the group back on track.
“Our mandate is to make sure the business runs as profitably as it can. What is most important now is to ensure that the business runs and meets its obligations,” he said.
Etisalat International early this week announced its exit from Etisalat Nigeria and terminated the management agreement with its Nigerian arm.
The decision which was disclosed by the Chief Executive Officer, Hatem Dowidar, said the company has also given the business time to phase out the brand in Nigeria.
Dowidar said the decision of the Abu Dhabi owned telecommunications networks resulted after its $1.2 billion loan talks collapsed.
He said that there was no need for the brand in Nigeria after the collapse of the loan talks, but promised to provide technical support for Etisalat Nigeria.
Only recently, a new management board was put in place by the appointment of Boye Olusanya as the Chief Executive Officer and Joseph Nnanna as Chairman.
Other members of the board comprises of non-executive directors which include Oluseyi Bickersteth, Ken Igbokwe and Funke Ighodaro.
Last week, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Central Bank of Bank (CBN) intervened to save Etisalat Nigeria from collapse after talks with its lenders to renegotiate a $1.2 billion loan failed.
Before the breakdown of agreement between Etisalat International and Etisalat Nigeria, the Nigerian arm claimed that it had repaid 42 percent of the loan.
“As at today, we can categorically state that the outstanding loan sum to the consortium (of banks) stands at $227 million and N113 billion, a total of about $574 million if the naira portion is converted to US dollars. This in essence means almost half of the original loan of $1.2 billion has been repaid.
“Etisalat continued to service the loan up until February 2017, when discussions with the banks regarding the repayment restructuring commenced,” Ibrahim Dikko, Vice-President, Regulatory & Corporate Affairs of Etisalat Nigeria said.
Also, NCC last month assured that the network’s integrity would not be compromised amid the loan disagreements.
Tony Ojobo, Director, Public Affairs of NCC, had said, “The NCC in conjunction with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has mediated by holding several meetings with the banks, Etisalat and other stakeholders to find a solution. Regrettably, these meetings did not yield the desired results.”
NCC reassured about 20 million Etisalat subscribers that it will do all within its regulatory power to ensure that Etisalat subscribers continue to enjoy the services provided by the operator.
It would be recalled that while the debt discussions were ongoing, Etisalat Nigeria directors resigned en masse from the seven-man board of the network operator.
The company’s Chairman, Hakeem Belo-Osagie, suddenly resigned.
It was reported that the resignation of the directors was an attempt to absolve themselves of criminal and civil liability for the non-payment of the $1.2 billion loan taken from 13 Nigerian banks.
Six Mubadala and Etisalat Group-appointed non-executive directors (NEDs), all nationals of the United Arab Emirates, resigned, following Emirates Telecoms Group Company’s (Etisalat Group) reporting disclosure on the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange that it was transferring 45 percent of its stake and 25 percent of its preference shares in its Nigerian subsidiary to United Capital Trustees Limited, the legal representative of the lending banks.
Other shareholders of Etisalat Nigeria included Mubadala Development Company with a 40 percent stake and Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS), representing the Nigerian shareholders, with 15 percent.
The consortium of banks had threatened to take over the operations of the telecoms company unless it repaid the loan in full.