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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Celtel abandons NITEL for Vmobile

By Remmy Nweke

Celtel International has finally abandoned the pursuit of buying over the national operator, Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), just as the telco said the renaming of Vmobile brand is imminent.

This development came following the take over of the 65 per cent stake in the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), Vee Network Limited, trading under the name of Vmobile by Celtel.

ITRealms Online recalls that mid-April Celtel International, a subsidiary of MTC Group of Kuwait, entered into what was called ‘Conditional Acquisition’ with Celtel for a total consideration of US$1.005 billion.

Celtel, lately was listed among five telcos about to bid for NITEL this year, but has now dropped the idea. Also last year, Celtel on learning that the Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTel), the GSM arm of NITEL was extracted from the original NITEL offer withdrew its bid.

This is against the report that the erstwhile shareholding company, Econet Wireless International (EWI) Tuesday instituted a court case against the deal between Vmobile and Celtel.

But Vmobile said it is yet to receive official court injunction to that effect as at the time of briefing the press Wednesday.

Responding to questions at the official ceremony to announce the formal completion of the deal with Vmobile in Lagos, Celtel’s Chief Strategy and Development Officer, Ms Tsega Gebreyes, said the telco would forgo the NITEL dream.

“We would not pursue NITEL anymore given that we have completed acquisition today,” she asserted.

Expressing delight on the completion of the deal, she said, that negotiations with Vmobile’s shareholders have resulted in the much needed investment in the company.

“Celtel looks forward to a strong partnership with Vmobile shareholders to build an even stronger business” Ms Gebreyes said.

While announcing the formal completion, a director in Vmobile and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Paul Usoro, said that Celtel has acquired 65 per cent of Vmobile after a successful transaction.

This follows the expiration of the mandatory 30-day period to enable EWI exercise the right of ‘first refusal’.

According to him, at the end of the board’s meeting weekend, the remaining 65 per cent of Vmobile’s shares were transferred to Celtel International.

“We are delighted to have found a partner that shares both our vision and our passion for developing the mobile telephony market in Nigeria,” he declared.

Stressing that the transaction would assist Vmobile to continue its expansion plans to ensure that the company offer Nigerians the highest quality infrastructure and world class service that they deserve.

Mr. Usoro also said that the initial $1.005 billion has been structured as the purchase of existing shares and equity injection which will immediately boost Vmobile’s financial ability to continue and accelerate its aggressive roll out.

Equally speaking, chief executive of Celtel International, Mr. Marten Pieters, reassured the over 2000 employee of Vmobile that intelligent ones would be retained.

Out of the 12 directors in the new Celtel Nigeria, he said, five would be Nigerians, another five Africans and the remaining two non-Africans.
“I am very proud to say that all we have achieved was part of team work,” he said, even as he expects their Nigerian colleagues in erstwhile Vmobile to integrate into Celtel.
ITRealms Online further recalled that since getting its license in 2001, Vmobile Nigeria has undergone series of restructuring including a transformation from initial Econet Wireless to Vodacom and now Vmobile Nigeria.
Incorporated in 2000, Vmobile Nigeria is a telecommunications company providing GSM services in the country, lays claims to being the first GSM operator to initiate call on August 5, 2001.
Vmobile now has over 5.3 million subscribers and with this acquisition, Celtel Group now has 15.3 million subscribers in 15 countries on the continent.
Celtel has presence in Burkina Faso, Chad, Rep Congo Democratic Republic, Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

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