Unicom in bid to buy Nigerian telco: report

Robert Clark
17 Feb 2010
00:00

China Unicom has joined a syndicate bidding $2.5 billion to take control of stricken Nigerian telco Nitel.

It has partnered with Dubai-based telecom distributor Minerva and local CDMA player GiCell in a group called New Generations Telecommunications, FT.com reported.

If successful, it would be one of China’s biggest investments in Africa.

However, analysts told the FT the bid price was too high for the under-performing business, which the Nigerian government has been trying to sell for ten years.

The bid price, reportedly $1.5 billion more than the second-highest offer, was “way over the top,” an analyst said.

The carrier is in decline, with mobile subs shrinking from more than 1 million to several thousand, and just 100,000 fixed-line customers - down 80% from 2001.

The Nigerian government reversed an earlier privatization two years ago, claiming the new owner, Transcorp, breached the terms of the deal and did not improve the performance of the company.

The consortium has 10 days to pay 30% of the price, and a further 50 days to pay the balance if it is to secure a 75% holding in Nitel.

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