Etisalat Nigeria said on Tuesday it was still in talks with local banks in the country to renegotiate the terms of the $1.2bn (N541bn) loan it took in 2013 after missing a payment in February 2017.
The telecommunications firm said it was not true that the lenders, under pressure to avoid loan-loss provisions, were pushing to finalise the debt restructuring before next monthâ€™s half-yearly audit.
The company told our correspondent amid reports that talks between the telco and its lenders to renegotiate the terms of the loan had reached a deadlock after a meeting in London last week.
The Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, Etisalat Nigeria, Ibrahim Dikko, said, â€śTalks with the banks are still ongoing, so I donâ€™t think there is any deadlock. I have not been briefed yet, but by this time tomorrow (today), I will be certain on the development.
â€śWe are in discussions with our bankers and have been for quite a while. We are hoping that we can resolve the issue and find a way to renegotiate the terms.â€ť
The Emirates Telecommunications Group owns about 45 per cent stake in its Nigerian affiliate, which accounted for around 3.7 per cent of the groupâ€™s revenue in 2013.
Etisalat Nigeria signed a $1.2bn medium-term facility with 13 Nigerian banks in 2013, which it used to refinance an existing $650m loan and fund the modernisation of its network.
Dikko said the business performed well in 2016 and was still in profit at the level of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, while loan repayments had been up to date â€śuntil recently.â€ť
He had earlier said that the company was looking at â€śall the options,â€ť which could include converting the loan into naira, but did not want to anticipate the outcome of talks with the lenders.
A source at Etisalat Nigeria said that the telco was in talks with lenders to restructure the loan after it missed a repayment schedule.
Reuters quoted a banker who declined to be named to have said, â€śThere is no conclusive view on the way forward.
â€śThe most viable solution, which the banks are pushing for, is for the shareholders to inject equity into the business.â€ť
Reacting to the development, an economist, Bismarck Rewane, said, â€śMy understanding of the matter is that there is a contract between the lenders and the borrower. As long as the contract exists, then there is room for considerations and re-considerations.
â€śIt is an inconvenient situation but I donâ€™t think it is that bad to the extent there should be a deadlock.â€ť
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