China Unicom has joined a syndicate bidding $2.5 billion (€1.82 billion) to take control of stricken Nigerian telco Nitel.
Its partnership with Dubai-based telecom distributor Minerva and local CDMA player GiCell –known as New Generations Telecommunications – is the preferred bidder for the state-owned company, ThisDayOnline reported.
If successful, it would be one of China’s biggest investments in Africa, FT.com said.
However, analysts said the bid price was too high for the under-performing business, which the Nigerian government has been trying to sell for ten years.
The bid price, reportedly $1.5 billion more than the second-highest offer, was “way over the top,” an analyst said.
The carrier is in decline, with mobile subs shrinking from more than 1 million to several thousand, and just 100,000 fixed-line customers - down 80% from 2001.
The Nigerian government reversed an earlier privatisation two years ago, claiming the new owner, Transcorp, breached the terms of the deal and did not improve the performance of the company.
The consortium has 10 days to pay 30% of the price, and a further 50 days to pay the balance if it is to secure a 75% holding in Nitel.