Embattled mobile telephone operator, Etisalat Nigeria, said on Thursday about 42 per cent (about $504 million) of the original loan package of $1.2 billion (about N377.4 billion) from a consortium of Nigerian banks, which is at the core of the current crisis it is facing, has since been repaid.
Etisalat Nigeria Vice President, Regulatory & Corporate Affairs, Ibrahim Dikko, who said this in a statement, denied a news report that the company was being investigated by the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, following a petition by the consortium of banks requesting the Federal Government to look into how the funds from the syndicated loans were utilized.
“Etisalat wishes to categorically affirm for the avoidance of doubt that the reports are patently false and most unfortunate considering the damage such misleading information can have not only on our business, but indeed on the telecommunications industry and the country as a whole,” Mr. Dikko said.
Mr. Dikko also said the value of the loan was $1.2 billion, and not $1.7 billion.
He said Etisalat had “consistently and conscientiously met up with its payment obligations”.
“As at today, we can categorically state that the outstanding loan sum to the consortium stands at $227million and N113 billion, a total of about $574million (if the Naira portion is converted to U.S. Dollars,” he said.
“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,” he added.
On the alleged investigation by the EFCC, Mr. Dikko said considering that concerned parties have access to the company’s financial books, it would not require a call for investigation into how the loan sum was utilized.
“All of the infrastructure investment and services for which the loan was secured, were paid through our banks and these are verifiable,” he said.
In 2013, Etisalat had obtained the syndicated loan from a consortium of 13 Nigerian banks, including Access Bank, Zenith Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, First Bank Limited, Fidelity Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Stanbic IBTC, Ecobank, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc and Union Bank of Nigeria Plc.
The loan, which involved a foreign-backed guaranteed bond, was to help the tele-mobile firm finance a major network rehabilitation, upgrade and expansion of its operational base in Nigeria.
However, its alleged failure to meet agreed debt servicing obligations with the banks since 2016 triggered a major crisis, culminated in the withdrawal of its major shareholder, Emirates Telecommunications Group Company from the company last week.
The United Arab Emirates company announced to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday that it had decided to request Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services, EMTS Holding BV, a special purpose vehicle established in Netherlands, to transfer the entire 70 per cent of its shareholding in Etisalat Nigeria to United Capital Trustees Limited, the legal trustees of the banks effective June 15, 2017.
Etisalat Nigeria is currently left in the hands of EMTS promoted by the former Chairman of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Hakeem Bello-Osagie.