By Prince Osuagwu (Hi-Tech Editor)
ETISALAT Nigeria, has described the resignation of its Chairman, Hakeem Bello-Osagie, as a great sacrifice. The telecom company said the chairman’s action has proven that he is an astute business man who wants nothing but the survival of any business he has interest in.
Osagie resigned his appointment following the approval of a restructuring plan for the telecommunications firm.
A close source at Etisalat said Bello wanted to step down immediately the restructuring plan was approved but had to restrain the urge to ensure that a smooth transition is achieved.
The source said: “Although the chairman had planned to leave immediately the banks made the take-over move, he opted to tarry until a road map for the company was finalised. The timing of the resignation was strategically delayed till now that stakeholders have agreed on a plan. This comes more than a week after Mubadala Development Company directors tendered their resignation.
“The development also reflects Mr. Bello-Osagie’s deep commitment to protecting the interest of all stakeholders. It is now expected that Etisalat Nigeria, under its new shareholding structure, will navigate through its current loan repayment challenge with minimum impact.
“Over the last several months, the chairman worked extensively with critical stakeholders to prepare clearly articulated strategies and robust road maps that will mitigate the impact of the new shareholding restructuring and realignment on the operations and management of the company. There can be no sacrifice bigger than that. All of us should emulate his humility and his spirit of ensuring that every business he has interest in, survives.”
Meanwhile, a new Etisalat Nigeria appears to be in the offing as the Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mathew Wilsher, and Chief Financial Officer, Olawole Obasunloye, have also joined Bello to step down. This appears to be in fulfilment of a “seamless transition” to an interim management which the company promised last week, following an agreement with the consortium of its creditors.
The telecom company secured a N541 billion loan from a consortium of local and foreign based banks to upgrade its network and expand its services in the country but recession and stringent forex policy limited its ability to consistently service the loan. This led to a torrent of negative effects including a near take-over attempt before the telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, and its banking sector counterpart, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN stepped in.
It also led to investors, Emirates Telecommunications Services and their United Arab counterparts, Mubadala Group pulling out of the marriage. The last leg of the effects of the saga is the resignation of the current board chairman and key management officers of the company. Although no replacements have been announced for these resigned officials, sources at the company said a new management team was being formalised and would be made public soonest.
However, there are indications that UK based Orange Telecom and Vodafone are in frame to fill the void left by Emirates telecom and Mubadala.
Although many other companies are reported to be in the battle to cut the Etisalat pie, inside sources at Etisalat hinted that Orange and Vodafone Group are in strong positions to buy 65 per cent of Etisalat Nigeria following the exit of Mubadala and ETS.
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