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Friday, March 09, 2007

Celtel Nigeria gets N206.997b syndication

Determined to expand its operations in the country as promised, Celtel Nigeria Limited, has concluded plans for syndication worth $1.619 billion, about N206.997 billion.

The deal concluded at the weekend, has the sum of $1.43 billion as syndicated facility while $189 million came as bilateral facility.

According to Head of Division, Public Relations, Events and Sponsorship at Celtel Nigeria, Mr. Emeka Oparah, the facility consists of N125bn (US$984m) in local currency, arranged by Celtel Nigeria, and a US$450m foreign currency arranged and fully underwritten by Citibank, N.A. (Citigroup), which also was sole bookrunner.

Additionally, Huawei Technologies and UBA New York provided US$148.6m and US$40m, respectively, in bilateral financing.

He said that the facility would be used to refinance the company’s existing debt and finance its network rollout programme.

As said by him, syndication of the facility was highly successful in which 13 Nigerian financial institutions led others, 12 banks syndicated the local currency facility, while 11 international banks facilitated the foreign-currency aspect, resulting in over-subscription by 50 per cent on both facilities and an upsizing of both from the initial amounts of US$670m (NGN equivalent) and US$350m, respectively.

He pointed out that the heavy over-subscription of the foreign-currency facility meant that the syndicate was able to accommodate a substantial reduction in a reverse flex based on the margin and commitment fees from the initially agreed terms.

This, Mr. Oparah said, is an indication of the international and domestic banking communities’ strong support for Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC) Group operating companies, and an endorsement of Celtel Nigeria’s ambitious growth strategy.

Celtel Nigeria’s legal advisers on the deal were Allen & Overy LLP (offshore) and Olaniwun Ajayi & Co (onshore), and the lenders were represented by Watson, Farley & Williams LLP (offshore) and The Law Union (onshore).

Citibank International Plc is the global coordinating agent, First Trustees Nigeria Limited is the security trustee, and First City Monument Bank Plc is the Nigerian administrative agent.

In 2001, Celtel Nigeria then known as Econet Wireless Nigeria Ltd, and subsequently as Vee Networks Ltd, spearheaded Nigeria’s wireless revolution by being the first to offer GSM services in the country.

Mr. Oparah noted that since then, it has continuously grown its subscriber base and is today a major player with a 24 per cent market share in one of the fastest growing mobile markets in the world.

The company assumed its current name in 2006, soon after being acquired by Celtel International BV, itself a subsidiary of Mobile Telecommunications Company K.S.C.

He said that based on the latest syndication, Celtel Nigeria will embark upon the next chapter of its groundbreaking history; namely the accelerated expansion of its already broad network, in order to bring the benefits of mobile communication to more of Nigeria’s 140 million people on the back of its brand promise of “Making Life Better”.

For the chief executive, Celtel Nigeria, Mr. Adebayo Ligali, “This is another landmark transaction by our company and coming barely six months after the acquisition of Vee Networks by Celtel International, it is an acknowledgement of the confidence of the international finance community in our company and in Nigeria.”

Mr. Ligali emphasised that this transaction is indicative of the success being recorded in the federal government’s quest to steer the economy in the path of growth, and in the same direction as the rest of the world.

He added that the company has continued to be a key player in the realisation of the federal government’s vision of accelerated foreign direct investment (FDI).

“More than ever before, we are poised and committed to a more aggressive roll out infrastructure across the country so as to expand our coverage, improve our capacity and enhance our quality,” he stated.

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