N21b Donation: Skye Bank Chairman’s Questionable Link With Jonathan

imageThree recent acquisitions by the Chairman of Skye Bank Plc, Mr. Tunde Ayeni, is currently raising eyebrows among industry watchers in Nigeria. The Chairman of Skye Bank Plc recently donated a whopping N2billion to President Goodluck’s re-election fund on Saturday 20th December 2014.

Investigations conducted reveal that the Skye Bank Plc Chairman was involved in the purchase of Nigeria’s moribund M-TEL/NITEL for $252M, the Yola and Ibadan (PHCN) Disco Distribution for $228m and Ascot Offshore Nigeria Limited for an estimated N16 billion ($95.24 million).

The Skye Bank Plc Chairman, Chief Tunde Ayeni is the main promoter of a telecommunications consortium NATCOM that last month emerged the preferred bidder for the moribund Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and its mobile arm, the Mobile Telecommunications (M-Tel), after offering to pay $252,251,000 under a guided liquidation process for both firms.

Mr. Tunde Ayeni, also only a year ago was the chief promoter of Integrated Energy Distribution and Marketing Company Limited, which acquired Ibadan and Yola Distribution Companies (Discos) under the power sector reform and privatisation process.

15 companies, comprising five generation companies (Gencos) and 10 distribution companies (Discos), were created from the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) under the power sector reform and privatisation programme.

Integrated Energy, which won the bids for Yola and Ibadan Discos, sources in the BPE confirmed paid $57 million for both assets on Wednesday. The sum, sources said, represents 25 per cent of the bid price for both utilities.

The firm, which is chaired by former military head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, is fronted by the trio of Tunde Ayeni, a businessman and chairman of Skye Bank Plc; Captain Osa Okunbor; and Dr. Sola Ayandele. It will be expected to pay the balance of 75 per cent within the next six months.

The Chief Executive Officer/founder of Pan African International (PAI) Group, Mr. Ike Ejizu and the Chairman of Skye Bank Plc, Mr. Tunde Ayeni, among others, recently partnered to acquire Ascot Offshore Nigeria Limited for an estimated N16 billion ($95.24 million) from the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).

Meanwhile questions are being asked following the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan just after 2days of receiving 2 billion Naira donation from Skye Bank Plc chairman, approved increase in tariff of PHCN, seeing that Mr Ayeni is a major player in the energy sector.

What also seems worrisome is how Mr Ayeni got all the monies for numerous acquisitions.

“How well has Skye Bank done and what are the records of it’s activities with regards to their customers deposits and savings in their custody”, an observer wondered aloud to elombah.com.

The bank recorded gross earnings of N97 billion in 2014, down by four per cent from N102 billion posted in the corresponding period of 2013. Profit before tax and profit after tax fell by 15 per cent from N14.5 billion to N12.3 billion and N11.6 billion to N9.8 billion respectively.

The deal on Ascot Offshore Nigeria Limited was closed recently when the PAI Group paid N16 billion for 95 per cent of the equity interest in Ascot.

According to AMCON official, under the terms of the deal, the group would take over the non-statutory liabilities of Ascot while AMCON would shoulder the company’s statutory liabilities amounting to some N6 billion.

“Ascot has a tax liability of N6 billion, of which AMCON will pay N3 billion to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) while the balance will be paid to other agencies of government that Ascot owes,” he said.

He said with the sale of the firm, its new owners would be able to revitalise its massive fabrication yard in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, and provide jobs for thousands of Nigerians.

Industry sources conversant with the transaction disclosed that the Ascot acquisition could prove to be very lucrative for PAI and its partners.

Industry sources confirmed that the Ascot fabrication yard in Port Harcourt has been certified by Total for the local fabrication of the Floating Production Storage Offloading (FPSO) vessel that will service the oil multinational’s Egina field.

Ascot Offshore, an energy services firm once led by Mr. Henry Imasekha, came into prominence in 2007 after its $155.25 million acquisition of Willbros Group Nigeria Holdings from its US parent, Willbros Group.

Willbros was forced to withdraw from Nigeria, following its indictment alongside Halliburton and others by the US Justice Department and US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for bribing Nigerian officials to obtain and retain $387 million in Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) contracts.

In May 2008, Willbros was fined $32 million in combined penalties, disgorgement and pre-judgment interest by the US SEC and Justice Department on allegations relating to its operations in Nigeria, Ecuador and Bolivia.

However, after Willbros was taken over by Imasekha’s Ascot, it borrowed heavily from the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc in order to complete the West African Gas Pipeline contract that had been awarded by Chevron Nigeria Limited to Willbros before its departure from Nigeria.

Ascot’s ability to deliver the project was however hampered following a disagreement with Chevron on the execution of the gas pipeline contract from Escravos to Benin Republic, which resulted in the former defaulting on its loan obligations to Intercontinental Bank.

Owing to its inability to repay Intercontinental Bank, AMCON took over the firm and has managed Ascot’s operations until it was sold to PAI.

Nigeria’s moribund M-TEL/NITEL for $252M deal

During the financial bid process held on Wednesday 3rd December 2014, in Abuja for NITEL/M-Tel by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the consortium had initially offered to acquire them for $221 million, but the offer was rejected by the Vice-Chairman of the Technical Committee of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), Alhaji Haruna Sambo, for falling below the reserve price.

NATCOM however won the bid when it eventually offered $252.25 million.

Ayeni, who has interests in the oil and gas, power and banking sectors, is also the Chairman of Skye Bank Plc, which only recently acquired Mainstreet Bank (former Afribank) from the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).

Two bidders – NATCOM and NETTAG – had been prequalified by the BPE to participate in the liquidation process, but the latter was disqualified for failing to include a $10 million bid bond as stipulated in the Request for Proposals (RFP) prepared by the privatisation agency.

The vice-president Namadi Sambo announcing NATCOM successful bid said following the disqualification of the NETTAG consortium as a result of its failure to submit a bid bond with its technical proposal, only the financial bid of NATCOM was prequalified for opening.

According to Sambo, the new legal framework provided the basis upon which the process for privatising NITEL commenced in 2001, stating that since then, there had been four different unsuccessful attempts to privatise NITEL to private operators and one failed management contract.

Enumerating previous attempts that had gone belly up, Sambo said the first entailed the strategic core investor sale of 51 per cent of NITEL to Investors International London Limited (IILL) in 2001.

Others included the failed management contract by Pentascope in 2003-4; the aborted Orascom Telecoms bid in 2005; the strategic core investor sale of 75 per cent through a negotiated sales strategy to Transcorp cancelled in 2009; and the strategic core investor sale in 2011 when New Generation Communications Limited and Omen International emerged as preferred and reserved bidders respectively.

He said it was after a review of the chequered history of the privatisation of NITEL that the NCP at its meeting of February 27, 2012 approved the privatisation of NITEL through guided liquidation.

The strategy, Sambo explained, was adopted by the council after due consideration of other options and in the light of the previous failed attempts to privatise NITEL through various attempts, as well as the companies’ huge liabilities to creditors of over N300 billion.

A group of Nigeria’s leading industrialists, politicians and businessmen, including the Chairman of Skype Bank last month donated a whoping N21.8bn to President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign at a recent fund-raising in Abuja.

But two days ago a former Minister for Information and the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Fund-raising Committee, Prof. Jerry Gana, has said the is not meant for the presidential campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan alone but for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party.

The donation, which came even from governors of the party who have not been able to pay salaries of civil servants in their states, had received condemnation across the country.

The main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress and eminent individuals in the country, including Senior Advocates of Nigeria, had condemned the action, saying it was an infraction of the 2010 Electoral Act.

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