Judge sets dates for V-Mobile hearings

A NIGERIAN judge presiding over a legal battle between Econet Wireless and its partners in the Nigerian cellular operator V-Mobile has fixed dates to hear the case.

Econet is applying to have the sale of 65% of V-Mobile to a rival operator, Celtel, declared illegal, claiming breach of contract.

Judge Olateru-Olagbeji has ruled that the trial should begin on October 27 and run into November 3, 10 and 17 as it was a high-profile case that should be conducted on an “accelerated basis”.

If Econet wins, Celtel will have to unravel the deal that saw it pay $1,2bn to the Nigeria shareholders and remove managers it put in place to reinvigorate V-Mobile’s business.

Johannesburg-based Econet owns 5% of V-Mobile and claims right of first refusal over any other shares offered for sale. Econet says it came up with the cash to buy the shares but claims the Nigerians did not hand over documents Econet needed to complete the deal.

Celtel and the Nigerian shareholders say the sale was carried out only after giving Econet plenty of time to buy the shares itself. The necessary documents were made available but Econet could not raise the money in time, they argue.

The UK high court has thrown out Econet’s application for an interdict to block the sale, finding Econet was $90m short of the cash it needed when its deadline expired.

Econet CEO Strive Masiyiwa said he could show his company had raised sufficient cash. Econet spokesman Sure Kamhunga said yesterday the judge would let Econet amend its claim to include evidence that there was not only a breach of contract but also a conspiracy to withhold the documents needed to acquire V-Mobile.

“We will finally get to show the whole world what really happened,” Kamhunga said.

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Judge sets dates for V-Mobile hearings