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NITEL BIDDER CONFIDENT OF MEETING DEADLINE

By NBF News
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A Nigerian firm involved in a $2.5 billion bid for former state telecoms monopoly Nitel said yesterday it was optimistic it would meet a December deadline to pay a 30 percent deposit to secure its bid.

GiCell won an extension on Nov. 5 of 20 working days after failing to make a deposit of $750 million by an earlier deadline because its financial backers had developed what it described as 'cold feet' over delays in the sale process.

GiCell is part of the New Generation consortium, the preferred bidder for Nitel, whose technical partners include China's second biggest carrier China Unicom.

'We are working tirelessly to meet the deadline despite the challenges we are facing,' GiCell Managing Director Usman Gumi told Reuters.

Questions have been raised over the financing for the New Generation bid, which some analysts said values Nitel at more than five times what it is worth.

President Goodluck Jonathan set up a panel in March led by the attorney general to investigate the top two bidders. The privatisation agency said last month the committee had found the planned transaction complied with due process.

Gumi said the valuation was realistic, adding Nitel had network and infrastructure across Africa's most populous nation which could be reactivated.

Nigeria is one of the world's fastest-growing telecoms markets but the government has been trying for years to sell Nitel, struggling mainly because of the shambolic state of its fixed-line infrastructure and huge debt.

As well as its fixed line business, Nitel has a mobile arm MTEL which already owns a GSM license and the SAT-3 submarine broadband cable. Reuters.