Etisalat Nigeria Signs $1.2 Billion Loan for Network Expansion

Emirates Telecommunications Corp., the largest publicly traded company in the United Arab Emirates, said its Nigerian unit secured a $1.2 billion loan to refinance existing debt and grow its network.

“The company plans to use the proceeds to refinance the existing commercial medium term debt of $650 million and continue its network rollout” across the West African country, Emirates Chief Financial Officer Serkan Okandan said today in an e-mailed statement. The “medium term syndicated loan” is denominated in both naira and dollars and comes from a group of 13 Nigerian lenders, he said.

Nigerian mobile phone operators are investing in their networks to overcome frequent power cuts and the sabotage of facilities in the country’s mainly Muslim north, where Islamist militants target telecommunications companies for helping the authorities to track them. MTN Nigerian Communication Ltd., the country’s biggest mobile phone provider, said in April it got a $3 billion loan from a group of 17 local banks and seven foreign lenders.

Etisalat, as the Emirates unit is known, is the fourth-largest mobile phone operator in Africa’s most populous country. It wants 20 million active subscribers by the end of the year, compared with about 15.2 million now, according to the company.

South Africa’s MTN is the largest operator with 50.6 million users, or 45 percent of total mobile subscribers, according to data compiled by the Nigeria Communications Commission in February. Nigeria’s Globacom Ltd. has 23.8 million customers and New Delhi-based Bharti Airtel ltd. has 23.5 million.

Etisalat got a $650 million loan from eight Nigerian banks to expand its mobile phone network in 2011.

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