(Adds IHS statement)
* Etisalat missed payment on $1.2 bln loan
* Central bank, telecom regulator intervene
* Etisalat, lenders to meet regulators on Friday
By Camillus Eboh and Chijioke Ohuocha
ABUJA/LAGOS, March 9 Nigeria's telecoms
regulator and central bank governor intervened on Thursday to
try to help Etisalat Nigeria resolve debt restructuring talks
with its lenders, after the company missed a payment on a $1.2
A banking source told Reuters on Wednesday that the Nigerian
affiliate of Abu Dhabi-listed telecoms company Etisalat
had given notice to its Nigerian lenders that it would
miss a payment in February. Debt talks were triggered 10 days
ago but the two sides have not been able to agree on terms.
Etisalat is the biggest foreign victim of dollar shortages
in Nigeria. Firms aggressively invested in the West African
nation in the era of high oil prices but are struggling to repay
loans or keep operating as the oil producer suffers from a slump
in oil revenues, hitting its currency and dollars reserves.
One of the consortium of 13 affected lenders, Access Bank,
said on Thursday it was owed 40 billion naira ($131 million) by
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said in a
statement it was worried about the negative impact the matter
could have on Etisalat Nigeria subscribers and the industry, and
wanted to prevent a possible takeover of the unit by the banks.
NCC Chairman Umar Danbatta met with central bank Governor
Godwin Emefiele to try to find a solution and ordered Etisalat
Nigeria and the banks to meet again on Friday. It gave no
"NCC was worried about the fate of the over 20 million
Etisalat subscribers and the wrong signals this may send to
potential investors in the telecom industry," it said in the
Etisalat and Etisalat Nigeria were not immediately available
LEASE PAYMENT AT RISK
Emirates Telecommunications Group (Etisalat) owns a 40
percent stake in its Nigerian affiliate, which accounted for
around 3.7 percent of the group's revenue in 2013.
Etisalat Nigeria signed a $1.2 billion medium-term facility
with 13 Nigerian banks in 2013, which it used to refinance an
existing $650 million loan and fund a modernisation of its
Banks involved in the loan deal include: Zenith Bank , GT
Bank, First Bank, UBA, Fidelity Bank, Access Bank, Ecobank,
FCMB, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Union Bank.
Access Bank's Chief Executive Herbert Wigwe told an
analysts' call that Etisalat had converted a shareholder loan to
the Nigerian arm to equity to free up cashflows and that it may
need to inject fresh equity.
As well as the loan from banks, Etisalat had also entered
into a sale and lease-back of its phone towers with tower firm
IHS Nigeria to free up cash.
IHS said a payment of $8.5 million was more than 120 days
overdue from Etisalat as per Dec. 31. "We ... will continue to
pursue our contractual rights in collecting the outstanding
amounts," IHS said in a filing to the Irish stock exchange.
JP Morgan analyst Zafar Nazim said in a note on Thursday
that on Wednesday it had downgraded IHS bonds due 2021 because
of Etisalat Nigeria as it was uncertain whether the company
could keep up with lease commitments.
Nazim also said it was unclear whether Etisalat's parent
firm would recapitalise the Nigerian operations given its small
market share in the country, but added a quick resolution to the
loan issue would boost IHS bonds.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Torchia in Dubai; Writing by
Chijioke Ohuocha and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Susan Fenton and