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Don’t Cancel Nitel Sale



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When New Generation Telecom Consortium Limited won the bid to acquire 75 per cent in the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (Nitel) in mid February, some Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief.

To many, it was an end to almost 10 years of tortuous failed attempts to privatize the national carrier.

But as New Generation Telecom Consortium was about to click glasses to celebrate, a few power brokers felt that the $2.5 billion the consortium tabled for the carrier was worrisome. They allegedly wanted the consortium to throw the deal so that Nitel could be acquired at next to nothing.

This group was drinking pain relievers on behalf of the consortium which ought to know the nature of the national carrier before they entered the bid.

New Generation Telecom Consortium is said to have the backing of Minerva Group, Dubai, its principal financier, eager to establish footprint in Nigeria’s lucrative telecom market.

Minerva has declared their willingness to finance the reentry of Nitel into the market with as much as $2 billion in the first instance as well as pay the bid price.

All that is now threatened by the controversies that started just a day after the bid when China Unicom, a member of the Consortium; denied any involvement in the deal. The company had been listed as the technical partner.

It was to later clarify that its European subsidiary had offered technical partnership to the consortium on terms that were yet to be agreed on.

That having being settled, the federal government influenced by some powerful interests sent Dr. Christopher Anyanwu, director general of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) on suspension alleged insubordination and overstepping his boundaries.

Not even insistence by Professor Taiwo Osipitan, acting chairman of the Technical Committee of the National Council on Privatization, (NCP) that the transaction was faultless could dissuade the already fixated group bent on canceling the deal.

But as the claims and counter charges rages, Nitel continues to drift into nothingness.

Also drifting is Nigeria’s chance to attract further foreign direct investment as well as thousands of jobs that could be crated in the medium to long term.

The ripple effect of reentry of Nitel into the market could be far reaching from media houses to advertising, to industries to even househould.

The reentry of Nitel would also stimulate increased competition where operators battle for the soul of the consumer with superior services.

Government must not contemplate canceling the bid because it will throw the government into the crisis of looking for funds to offset Nitel’s liabilities put as some $1.7 billion when somebody has offered $2. 5billion.

Nigeria must toe the line of wise countries which attract foreign direct investment (FDI) because of its acknowledged advantages as a too

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Telcos Ask NCC to Allow Them Hike Tariff



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Telecoms operators including MTN, Airtel and Globacom have pushed for cost-reflective tariff in view of extant economic realities.

Telcos Ask NCC to Allow Them Hike Tariff

This was contained in a statement jointly released by the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) and the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) on Thursday.

The statement was co-signed by Gbenga Adebayo; chairman, ALTON and Tony Emoekpere, president, ATCON.

The telcos called upon the government to take decisive action in addressing the numerous challenges confronting the telecommunications industry.

The telcos said telecommunications infrastructure development requires substantial investments in network expansion, maintenance, and technology upgrades.

“Despite the adverse economic headwinds, the telecommunications industry remains the only industry yet to review its general service pricing framework upward in the last (11) years, primarily due to regulatory constraints.

“For a fully liberalized and deregulated sector, the current price control mechanism, which is not aligned with economic realities, threatens the industry’s sustainability and can erode investors’ confidence.

“ATCON and ALTON call upon the government to facilitate a constructive dialogue with industry stakeholders to address pricing challenges and establish a framework that balances consumers’ affordability with operators’ financial viability,” the statement partly read.

Regarding the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telcos also said regulatory neutrality and independence are crucial to ensuring a thriving telecommunications sector.

“Statutory provisions lend credence to this notion, as a lack of an impartial regulator will lead to a failure to maintain public confidence in the objectivity and independence of its decisions,” the statement added.

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FG Reiterates Commitment to Achieving 17 SDGs



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The federal government has reiterated its commitment to achieving all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to promote economic growth and eliminate poverty in Nigeria.

The Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Senator George Akume, gave the assurance at a news conference on Tuesday, in Abuja ahead of the “Inaugural Partnership Economy Summit”, scheduled for September 14 and 15.

According to Akume, the primary purpose of the summit is to diversify the economy, promote rural growth, as well as generate sustainable jobs for the youths.

Achieving this, the minister emphasised on partnership with other stakeholders as it was the responsibility of his ministry to achieve the aim of its mission and the creation.

“The framework for the upcoming summit, guided by the principles of Public Social Private Partnership (PSPP) is being designed to develop, promote a multi-Iayered collaborative socio-economic platform for the government, the business sector as well as the civil society.

“In order to achieve this, President Muhammadu Buhari established the ministry with the mandate to develop and implement policies, programmes and projects for the effective and efficient delivery of the gains of Economic Growth and Recovery Plan,” Akume said.

He said the ministry was also charged with the mandate of collaborating with the private sector to create employment for a large number of Nigerian youths, adding that it is also meant to implement a strategy towards the realisation of the president’s June 12 promise to take 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.

“Nigeria is among the countries in the UN that signed a pact to implement the SDGs by 2030, in the words of Ban Ki-Moon, former Secretary-General of UN in 2016.

“Nigeria is not left out in its plan towards achieving the SDGs, and how far has Nigeria gone to achieving the 806 goals is part of the questions that the upcoming summit seeks to address,” Akume explained.

He stated that to tackle the issue of poverty and unemployment, the ministry is in partnership with a number of stakeholders, including the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment; and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria.

Others are Raw Materials Research and Development Council, National Orientation Agency, Association of Local Government of Nigeria and SDGs Nigeria as well as MYK Psymmons Solutions Limited to come up with achievable solutions to all the challenges.

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Smile Voice Service Will Give Nigerians Different Experience – Obiejesi



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Dr. Ernest Azudialu Obiejesi is the chairman, Smile Communications (Nigeria) Limited. He first founded Obijackson West Africa Limited in the early 1980’s before diversifying into the oil and gas industry with Nestoil in 1991. 
Dr. Azudialu-Obiejesi sits on the board of directors of several companies including Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, and is the Chairman of the Board of Neconde Energy and Smile Communications.‎
He recently addressed the media on the investment plans of Smile in Nigeria; peter ugwu was there for Nigeria CommunicationsWeek.

Smile Communications $365million Fund Raising
I am Dr. Ernest Azudiala Obiejesi, the chairman of Smile Communications in Nigeria and a major shareholder in the Smile Holdings limited; comprising, Smile South Africa, Smile Dubai, Smile Tanzania, Smile Uganda and Smile Democratic Republic of Congo (2016). In that capacity, we look at Smile as one of the best things that has happened in the telecommunications industry, both in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa. Smile, actually, is a data telecoms company operating on 800Gigahertz Spectrum with 4G LTE licence.
Recently, we embarked on a major capital raise to make sure the company is financially stable to be able to carry out its business and network expansion plans around Africa.
The financial raise was not an easy one. It took us quite a lot of energy, because the management staff had to deal with banks in different parts of Africa. At the end we raised USD ($) 356million; which is a debt and equity.
The aim of this financing is mainly to finance to our growth; to accelerate our expansion drives, so that we will be able to a robust network smiling around Africa.
Due to the speed of the 4G LTE network it becomes very practicable that we should be able to have other networks spread across Nigeria very fast, such that we get the spectrum operating efficiently in Nigeria before other competitors catch up with us.
Secondly, we promised Nigerians a network that will enable the growth and expansion of businesses. That is already happening both in Nigeria and the rest of Africa. So, we are consolidating.

Smile’s Shareholders
As stated earlier, Smile is a pan-African telecommunications provider that owns and operates mobile wireless 4G LTE broadband networks in the 800GhZ band.
The shareholders are comprised of Al Nahla Group, a Saudi Arabia-based company, which is the majority shareholder; Renven Investment Holdings, a pan-African investment vehicle, in which Nigerian investors, including the Obijackson Group, are the majority and Verene, representing Smile senior management and social entrepreneurs from South Africa.
Also, Telecom investments, a South Arabian-based investment company is a shareholder in Smile; Capitalworks, an active alternative management company, spreading in investment in the African mid-market; the PIC, which is the biggest pension fund in the world; and Smile employees. So, we came together to compose the company called Smile. Nigeria is the largest telecoms market in Africa and that entails why Smile’s business in the country accounts for about 80% of the total operations. That is what makes Smile Nigeria very big and our participation in the country.
Smile in other African countries are getting it and will grow big too. The fund we secured is one of the biggest funds ever raised in the telecoms industry in Africa, especially with regards to a business that is somewhat a startup. Therefore, the management staff are happy with the feat we could achieve.

Smile Brazing Up For Voice Network
I have already mentioned we intend to expand the existing 4G LTE (mobile) broadband network in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa. With the fund, we intend to complete our expansions to other countries.
The more critical is Nigeria which is huge and for you to nurture such business to maturity you must spread out; cover all parts of the country.
The essence is for subscribers do witness continuity in the network coverage as they move from one part of the country to another.
Secondly, we are preparing for Smile’s clear voice network (CVN). We believe that before the end of this year we would have rollout out our CVN. Therefore, apart from data, we can use Smile’s spectrum voice-wise. Some of these are the reasons we had to go into the fund raising.

Where Smile Is Headed
This funds raised answer that question. This is young company and we don’t want to go public before pre-maturely.
Listing on Stock Exchange goes beyond having the certificate; you must have something to sell. At the moment we can’t take a product that is not known to the people to NSE which will be a hard sell.
With this kind of funds raised we believe that we have all the financial strength to expand the network and unleash clear voice network. So, we don’t think we will need the help of an IPO or listing on the floor of the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE) in the nearest future, because, before we complete the deployment of the funds, I am sure that the returns on investment will create enough funds to enable us embark on any other future investments. #
I also want to mention that one of the reasons for having a business case here is to support the growth of the economy and improve on the lives of Nigerians through job creation. The telecoms business has been proven, across the globe, as catalyst to improving the gross domestic product (GDP) of any economy.
We believe that with the kind of speed this broadband has and the facilities, the tendencies are there to create jobs for a lot of Nigerians.
It is going to impact on every sector, particularly, the entertainment industry as local content is key in the internet business.
Nigeria being one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, we believe that this type of network will help Nigerians grow faster while consolidating the gains already made in the economy.
I think it is a very welcome development and requires a lot of support. However, we as the shareholders and as the Chairman in Nigeria, we are not resting on our oars until Nigerians smile as they should in the internet connectivity and voice network-wise. Smile within the next two years would have become a success story.
At the moment an IPO is not going to be successful; not a good business strategy and we look at it as something that will come secondary. It is not a matter of dinning with the devil with a long spoon, rather be sure you are not in the menu.
You may take the pain of going through the processes of NSE; even the compliance requirements of an IPO and at the end of the day you might not secure the fund.
Even though is it more expensive the way we are doing it now, due to the interest way, but is a sure way to create a marketable brand before considering going public.

The Participating Institutions on the Fund Raising
The Development Bank of South Africa was there. Diamond Bank of Nigeria and EcoBank Nigeria also participated. PIC, the leading pension fund in South Africa; the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa and the Standard Chartered Bank were part of it too.
So, it was a consortium of banks that made it possible to raise the fund. On the equity aspect is where we put in our money alongside the Saudi Arabian partners.

Percentage of the Funds Smile Will Invest In Nigeria
If you look at the analysis with regards to Smile as a pan-African company, but the majority of the business is in Nigeria. This is market where about 80% of Smile business comes from. So, it is also expected that about 80% of that money will be spent in Nigeria.
This is the economy the company hopes to invest and recoup its resources too. This is where we have the population, growth tendencies, the businesses, and the oil and shows you that Nigeria is very large and sustainable for businesses too.
Therefore, both in infrastructure deployment and the funds usage, it is expected that Nigeria will have a fair share. Other market will be sharing the remaining percentage.
This simple analysis was part of the reasons the pan-African banks doled out the funds. They know Nigeria has the capacity to give back what is invested.

Why Smile Is Venturing Into Voice Network
The answer is very clear. The network runs on a superior spectrum. The idea is to give Nigerians clear voice network service. We know what the experience is today with other networks at the moment. The whole idea is to encourage good quality network service.
That is why the funds are very key, because once you commence and cover the areas; the voice network is going to be very clear.
There are testimonies that Smile’s 4G LTE in Nigeria is better than that used in London. Is it the same technology, but the one here offers better quality. Such testimonies point to the saying that Nigeria is at the forefront of global development; we want to be there with every other country.
We can’t be behind again. We are working with the Ericsson in this area to make it happen. We will start deploying by October and hope to commence fully before the end of the year.

Primary Segment on Clear Voice Network
It is important we understand that Smile is not going there to starting “fighting” the likes of MTN, GLO, Etisalat or Airtel, rather our strategy will set us apart…

…But You have A Market Share?
Yes, we do have market share, but we do wholesale as well. We expect that some of the big players can leverage some of the underutilized spaces we have.
What we are trying to do is, within the broadband, we are trying to take some of our free network and use it for voice over. If Smile is there for data and you can make calls from any part of the world, then, it gives you a whole package.
We have already created a niche for our selves and work towards adding a voice service. Without that we might not be able to utilize all the space we have on the band. Therefore, it is not a question of going to wrestle power, cut out from the subscribers of MTN, Glo and others.

How Will Rural Dwellers Will Benefit
We have to understand that 4G LTE broadband is the next level of telecom experience. Anyway, in the villages, almost everybody has telephones, but what percentage of them use or require data services. To adapt to data services, you need smartphone, laptops, or other smart devices too.
The 4G LTE is an advanced technology and Nigeria is moving fast from the voice to data. It is only when greater percentage of the population works with data services that this business will boom.
Those villages are not where the problems are rather the number of people who play in the data segment. Surely, data service is where the world is headed to. So, our target is every person or business that needs data service.

Was $365million The Needed Fund to Embark on Smile’s New Expansions Phase?
The quickest way to answer that is, $365million is a function of the companies coming together to look at what we want to achieve over the years.
The banks then looked at it and agreed on the projections they believe we can achieve. It is just like saying we want to cover Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt and the banks say no.
What you can do now is to cover Kaduna, Kano, etc, within the next three years. Leave Lagos for now. Therefore, the fund is a function of the agreement between the two plans. In the funds are equity and debt; most importantly, this cash is available for the company to deploy more services. The shareholders had made major investments. Before we secured the present funds, the company has been existing.  



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