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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 18:37 GMT
Nigeria seals landmark telecoms deal
Woman making a phone call in Nigeria
Nigeria has fewer than one telephone line for every 250 people
Business chiefs and Nigerian political leaders have rescued a landmark deal aimed at replacing the country's scarce and decrepit phone line coverage.

The Nigerian government has sealed the $1.3bn sale of 51% of state-owned telecoms firm Nitel to a Portuguese-led consortium.

Wednesday's signing follows delays, centring on disagreements over penalty clauses, which threatened to scupper the agreement, leaving the purchase open to a lower bidder.

Members of the consortium, International Investors of London (IIL), were also said to be worried about shareholder concern over entering a risky African market.

And rival bidders, based in Sweden and South Korea, for the Nitel stake have threatened to challenge the way the deal was pursued.

But the World Bank has commended the bidding process as open as transparent, and heralded the deal as a landmark in Nigeria's privatisation process.

Poor coverage

Nigeria's phone network, with only 400-500,000 lines operational at any one time, ranks as one of the worst in the world.

Even those among Nigeria's 1.2 million population who do have lines often suffer problems of fraud or call diversion.

Wednesday's deal will see IIL roll out 1.4 million new lines within the next five years, and win 1.5 million subscribers to a mobile phone network.

See also:

23 Nov 01 | Business
Nigeria delays telecoms sale signing
19 Nov 01 | Business
Nigeria set to complete telecom sale
05 Nov 01 | Business
Nigeria takes bids for telecom sale
15 Oct 01 | Business
Nitel launches GSM amid storm
28 Aug 01 | Business
Nigeria's digital mobile bonanza
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