Unicom not behind $2.5b Nitel bid

Nicole McCormick
19 Feb 2010

Neither the listed arm of China Unicom or its parent are part a consortium that has offered $2.5 billion for a 75% stake in state-owned telco Nitel.

The National Council on Privatisation (NCP) said earlier this week that Unicom-backed New Generation Telecommunications had emerged as the preferred bidder for Nitel.

But a spokesperson for China Unicom in Hong Kong later denied any involvement in the consortium by either the listco or parent company to the SCMP.

Now it emerges that Unicom’s European arm has agreed to provide only technical assistance to New Generation.

“We are pleased to inform you that we are willing to be technical partner to support New Generation Telecommunications Limited Consortium to bid for Nitel, and to provide technical and managerial support on terms to be agreed later, when the bid is finally won,” stated China Unicom (Europe) Operations.

That statement was released to Nigerian daily newspaper Next by a spokesperson for Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprise.

The spokesperson Joe Anichebe named Dubai-based property giant Minerva Group was the lead financier of New Generation.

Nigeria’s Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has reportedly called for an urgent inquiry into the NCP’s mix-ups.

New Generation has 10 calendar days from Tuesday to pay 30% of its $2.5 billion bid price, with the balance due 50 days after.

New Generation’s offer was $1.5 billion more than the next highest bid, from British Virgin Islands-registered firm Omen International.

A Hong Kong analyst told that it doesn’t make sense for Unicom to do the deal.

“They are busy at home rolling out 3G,” she said. “The listco doesn’t have the cash to invest overseas.”

She described the $2.5 billion price tag as “expensive.”

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