China Unicom says it is interested “exploring the possibility” of taking an equity stake in state-owned Nigerian telco Nitel.
But so far, its European arm has only “indicated its interest” in providing technical and management support for the deal, China Unicom HK said in a statement on Monday.
The statement clears a week of confusion about the Chinese carrier’s role in the New Generation Telecommunications consortium, which was last week named as the preferred bidder for Nitel.
Nigeria’s National Council on Privatisation (NCP) chief said Unicom was a financial backer of the group.
The statement said China Unicom Europe “has not commenced any negotiations with the relevant parties with respect to any substantive and legally binding agreements.”
Neither China Unicom HK nor its unlisted mainland parent firm had taken part in any direct discussions over the deal, it said.
“The company will continue to observe the development of the proposed privatisation, and will make announcements as and when appropriate,” it added.
New Generation, backed by Dubai’s Minerva Group and Nigerian firm GiCell, has offered to pay $2.5 billion (€1.84 billion) for a 75% stake in state-owned telco Nitel.
The Nigerian government has been seeking a buyer for at least 75% of Nitel since July 2009 after Transcorp sold its majority stake in the ailing telco.