Bharti Airtel said that it will fight a judgement by Nigeria’s Federal High Court, which said on Monday that it had upheld a claim by Econet Wireless to own a 5% stake in Airtel Nigeria.
“In light of the judgement by the Federal High Court of Nigeria regarding Econet Wireless Limited’s claim to the ownership of 5% equity in Airtel Networks Ltd (Airtel Nigeria), an appeal against the said judgement has been filed by Airtel Nigeria,” Bharti Airtel said in a statement.
Bharti Airtel added that it was confident that its appeal would be upheld and said that the judgement would have no impact on the equity holding of other shareholders in Airtel Nigeria. "We wish to assure our customers, employees and business partners that the ruling will in no way affect our operations or the company’s ability to fulfill obligations to its stakeholders,” the telco said in a statement.
Strive Masiyiwa, chairman, Econet Wireless Ltd, said that the issue of its lost 5% stake in Airtel Nigeria dated back to October 2003 when his company received a letter from Oba Otudeko, then chairman of Nigerian operation, informing him that Econet Wireless Ltd no longer owned 5% of telco.
Masiyiwa alleged that Econet Wireless’s shares were cancelled to help pave the way for the sale of the Nigerian operation to Celtel International, which was then acquired by Bharti Airtel in June 2010.
However, the court ruling went further than just recognising Econet Wireless’s ownership of a 5% stake in Airtel Nigeria.
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The Federal Court judgement also ordered that “all actions and resolutions taken by the company since October 2003, at which Econet Wireless Ltd was entitled to be notified, and to participate in as a shareholder” are null and void. This includes decisions to sell shares, issue shares, and also transfer shares to third parties, the ruling stated.
The court also ordered that the name change from Econet Wireless Nigeria Limited, which took place in 2003, was “irregular, and must be reversed forthwith”.