Trouble as Etisalat Nigeria becomes 9Mobile

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The name change in the brand identity of Etisalat Nigeria to 9Mobile has continued to elicit responses from stakeholders, who are of the view that the move, which is inevitable, may create some financial burden on the telecoms company, but it is not an evolutionary phase that cannot be weathered, writes Emma Okonji

When an organisation with high reputation is faced with the unexpected, which is threatening its continued existence as a corporate body, such organisation must rise to decisively deal with the situation, in order to maintain the confidence reposed in it by its followers, and such is the case with the former Etisalat Nigeria and its over 20 million subscribers, that culminated in a new brand identity, 9Mobile, last week.

Worried that the change in brand identity would pose additional financial burden on the telecoms company that is struggling to address its financial mess, the company has made bold to say that it saw the name change coming. The name change became inevitable, following the withdrawal of Abu-Dhabi-based Emirates Telecommunications Group Company (Etisalat Group), from the shareholding structure of Etisalat Nigeria, leaving the other two core investors, Mubadala Development Company of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS), made up of Nigerian group of investors.

Such situation that proved inevitable, forced the former Etisalat Nigeria to change its brand identity to 9Mobile, last week.

Name Change
Last week, Abu-Dhabi-based Emirates Telecommunications Group Company (Etisalat Group), which hitherto owned 45 per cent stake and 25 per cent preference shares in Etisalat Nigeria, gave EMTS a three-week ultimatum to stop using the Etisalat brand name for its telecoms business in Nigeria. The ultimatum, which was announced by the Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat International, Mr. Hatem Dowidar, is sequel to the group’s earlier withdrawal from the shareholding structure of Etisalat Nigeria, following the collapse of negotiations between Etisalat Nigeria and its lenders that are made up of 13 local banks, who had in 2013, gave Etisalat the sum of $1.2 billion loan for its network upgrade and expansion. Citing economic downturn of 2015-2016 and naira devaluation, which negatively impacted the dollar-denominated component of the loan, Etisalat wrote its creditors informing them of its intention to halt the repayment of the loan in installments, until such a time that it was able to raise more money.

Unsatisfied with the excuse from Etisalat, the banks threatened to take over the operations of the telecoms company should it fail to meet its payment obligations.

The situation forced Etisalat to enter into negotiations with the banks, but such negotiations eventually collapsed, leading to the withdrawal of Emirates Telecoms Group, and the resignation of every member of the former Etisalat Board and its former management staff.

Although the ultimatum to stop using Etisalat brand name came barely two weeks after the group’s withdrawal, EMTS told THISDAY that it expected such pronouncement, having pulled out of the shareholding structure. It however said it would not wait till the expiration of the three weeks ultimatum, to adopt a new brand identity for the Nigerian operations.
True to its statement, EMTS, last Thursday, had a meeting in Lagos, where it adopted 9Mobile as the new brand identity for its Nigeria operations.