A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has reinstated Econet Wireless International’s 5 per cent shareholding in Bharti Airtel Nigeria Ltd after the telecommunication company challenged the legality of a board meeting that usurped its shareholding in in Airtel.

Econet had been locked in legal battles over its 5 per cent shares since 2003.

The court ordered that Econet Wireless International was still a shareholder of Bharti Airtel Nigeria Limited and held 5% of the issued shares of the company and ordered Airtel to reinstate the shareholding.

The court also ordered that all actions and resolutions taken by the company were null and void. This included decisions to sell shares, issue shares, and also transfer shares to third parties. The court also ordered the name changes in 2003 to Bharti Airtel Nigeria Ltd, from Econet Wireless Nigeria Limited, to be reversed since the change was irregular.

As a result of the order, Econet Wireless Limited’s lawyers have written to Airtel to immediately reissue shares in the company to Econet to reinstate its 5% interest and give the mobile phone operator full access to board decisions and shareholder resolutions.

Econet said it intends to review the decisions taken by the board and other shareholders to ascertain which actions were in violation of the order of the High Court.

In October 2003, Econet Wireless Ltd received a letter from the chairman of the company – Oba Otudeko, in which he advised that at a board meeting directors had decided that Econet Wireless was no longer a shareholder, Econet’s share certificate had been cancelled, and Econet’s name removed from the shareholder register.

The motive for this unprecedented action was the circumvention of Econet Wireless’ rights as a shareholder in order to facilitate the sale of shares, first to Celtel International, and later to Bharti Airtel.


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