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The acquisition of 9mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria, looks to be competitive, as 16 firms have submitted their interest to bid for the operator. Etisalat Group was forced to pull out of Nigeria this year after its firm couldn't come to an agreement with its lenders to restructure $1.2 billion debt after missed payments. Following Etisalat's exit, the Nigerian firm announced it had rebranded as 9mobile and said it is open to discussions with new investors.

The 16 companies to express their interest in purchasing the Nigerian operator include South Africa's MTN, India's Bharti Airtel, and Nigeria's ntel, which in 2015 acquired the assets of the defunct NITEL and MTel through the federal government's privatization program. Africacell, a holding company with cellular communications companies in DRC, Gambia, Uganda and Sierra Leone, also submitted its interest in purchasing 9mobile, according to a report by ThisDay.

The report said industry sources confirmed that the 16 companies had complied with the deadline for the submission of Expressions of Interest (EoIs) at Barclays' office in Lagos. The CEO of 9mobile, Boye Olusanya, said he is focused on getting the company back on track to make profit. 9mobile has about a 13 percent share in Nigeria's mobile market, according to GSMA Intelligence, behind MTN, Glo Mobile and Airtel.

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