Africa's biggest privatisation so far, the US$1.3 billion deal for control of Nitel, Nigeria's state telecoms company, is unravelling. A consortium of Nigerian businesses, banks, state governments and traditional rulers won an auction last November of 51 per cent of the company, but now can't pay. That sale, long delayed by quarrels between ministries and worries about the loss of state patronage, came as telecoms shares slumped everywhere. The hoped-for global players did not arrive, and the local ones didn't have the money. If the deal collapses, it will cripple President Olusegun Obasanjo's economic programme.
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