- MTN Nigeria is reportedly in talks with Emerging Markets Telecommunications Service Limited (9Mobile) for a spectrum acquisition.
- Sources say the deal could lead to MTN taking over 9Mobile.
- There are questions about how the outcome of the deal could lead to a monopoly by MTN.
The spectrum deal was said to be a way to save 9Mobile, which has been struggling since the departure of key technical partners and investors.
A source close to the deal told Punch that the ongoing conversation between 9Mobile and MTN is for an acquisition of 9Mobile's only operating spectrum.
According to the source, "Once we have the spectrum, it is more like we have taken over the company. I can’t confirm how much is being discussed yet.”
Another news outlet has, however, reported MTN's denial of the deal's existence.
"MTN Nigeria is not looking to acquire 9Mobile spectrum. MTN Nigeria has been exploring national roaming opportunities in Nigeria in line with the group strategy of network as a service,” an MTN spokesperson said.
MTN tried to buy 9Mobile in 2017
While MTN denies its involvement in conversations to acquire 9Mobile's operating spectrum, it had attempted to acquire the struggling telco back in 2017.
The bid to acquire 9Mobile came after it was said to have defaulted on a loan repayment scheme of $1.2 billion. It cited an economic downturn and a drop in naira valuation as the reasons for its inability to pay back.
While MTN was one of the 16 companies that bid for 9Mobile back in 2017 when it had 33 million mobile subscribers.Today, it has 77.6 million subscribers.
Acquiring 9Mobile's 12 million mobile subscribers will bring MTN's mobile subscribers in Nigeria to 89.6 million, 76% of Nigeria's 117 million adult population.
This figure raises monopolistic concerns in Nigeria's telecoms industry. However, the country's telecom regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said it is not aware of conversations about MTN's 9Mobile acquisition.
Reuben Muoka, NCC's Director of Public Affairs, told Punch "We are not going to confirm whether we are aware or not. I am sure they know the appropriate thing to do."
True or not, all eyes are on the regulator in what could be one of the biggest acquisitions in Nigeria's capital market this year.