MTN’s N47.5b stake in Visafone stirs controversy
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has clarified that it did not approve transfer of Visafone licence to MTN, but that it only approved 100 per cent shareholding of the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operator to the Global System of Mobile Communication (GSM) firm.
Besides, the need to avoid the prospect of one ‘Dominant Operator’ having the power to control others in the sector was also put into consideration.
MTN had earlier in the year completed the acquisition of Visafone, after paying N47.5 billion and has successfully upgraded about 568,000 customers of the CDMA operator to its network.
Meanwhile, the commission claimed that its final approval to the changes in shareholding of Visafone Communications was taken by virtue of Section 38 of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003.
According to the regulator, this is contrary to the speculation in a section of the media that it had foreclosed the release of the spectrum held by Visafone to MTN.
NCC said the clarification became necessary in order to allay the fears in some quarters that the frequency had been withheld by the commission.The Director, Public Affairs at NCC, Tony Ojobo, in a statement yesterday, said: “The commission is yet to meet to take a decision on the application by Visafone to transfer its licence to MTN. The NCC has only approved the shareholding structure by 100 per cent and not transfer of licence.”
Specifically, Visafone Communications Limited with a Universal Access Service Licence (UASL) – deploying CDMA technology applied to the NCC for an approval to effect a change in its shareholding structure by transferring 100 per cent of its shares to MTN Nigeria.
The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, had said that in a bid to promote ICT innovations and investments opportunities in the country, the commission approved the acquisition of 100 per cent shareholding of Visafone Communications Limited in favour of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, “the result is that consumers who have lost services under Visafone are now regaining the services.
“We didn’t allow MTN to acquire Visafone’s spectrum to avoid some issues in the industry. Already, there is this issue about the GSM firm being a ‘Dominant Operator’, which is still generating issues in the industry. So it was considered that should MTN acquire the spectrum, it could unsettle the industry.”