British executive Matthew Wilsher confirmed as PTCL CEO

Wilsher headed Etisalat Nigeria as CEO during a debacle that led to Etisalat Group’s departure from African country

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The governing board of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) has approved the nomination of Matthew Wilsher as the new chief executive officer (CEO) of the national telecom operator [PTCL]. 

Wilsher is going to succeed Rashid Naseer Khan, who was appointed as the CEO of PTCL on February 12, 2019. Though official confirmation of Wilsher’s appointment by the management of the company is yet to be issued, a notification issued to the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) by the board states that the newly approved executive is going to assume office in Pakistan in December 2020.

As per the rules of appointment, Emirates Telecoms Group Company (Etisalat Group), which is a 26pc shareholder in PTCL and has the prerogative to appoint CEO of choice, nominated Wilsher to succeed Rashid. The governing board of the company subsequently approved the nomination in a recent meeting.

Wilsher, a British national, has a corporate career spanning over 33 years during which he has worked at Procter & Gamble, British Telecom, LG Telecom, Telstra, HK CSL, Maxis and Etisalat.

He is currently serving as the CEO of Etisalat Afghanistan, a post he joined following his resignation as the chief executive officer of Etisalat Nigeria in 2017. Wilsher was heading Etisalat Nigeria when the company failed to repay loans amounting to $1.2 billion to 13 Nigerian banks, leading to an unceremonious departure of Etisalat Group from Nigeria.

Apart from the CEO, Etisalat Nigeria chief financial officer (CFO) Wole Obasunloye also resigned, besides resignations of the Emirati non-executive directors, representing the interests of Mubadala Development Company and Etisalat Group, both shareholders in Etisalat Nigeria.

The Nigerian media reported that the directors had resigned in an attempt to absolve themselves of criminal and civil liability for the non-payment of a $1.2 billion loan taken from the 13 Nigerian banks.

The trouble had reportedly started when Etisalat Group disclosed on the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange that it had pulled out of Etisalat Nigeria and was transferring 45 per cent of its stake and 25 per cent of its preference shares in its Nigerian subsidiary to United Capital Trustees Limited, the legal representative of the lending banks.

Aside Etisalat Group, other shareholders of Etisalat Nigeria included Mubadala Development Company with a 40 per cent stake and Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS), representing the Nigerian shareholders, with 15 per cent.

Etisalat had in 2013 approached a consortium of 13 local banks for a loan of $1.2 billion for network upgrade and expansion. The money was sourced in dollar and naira denominations.

However, citing the economic downturn of 2015-2016 and naira devaluation, which negatively impacted on the dollar-denominated component of the loan, Etisalat wrote its creditors informing them of its intention to halt the repayment of the loan in instalments, until such a time that it was able to raise more money.

The banks involved in the loan deal were Zenith Bank, GTBank, FirstBank, UBA, Fidelity Bank, Access Bank, Ecobank, FCMB, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Union Bank.

Zenith Bank had the highest exposure to Etisalat amounting to $262 million and 80 billion naira, GTBank had the second-highest exposure of $138 million and 42 billion naira, Access Bank followed with $131 million and 40 billion naira, besides millions of dollars and billions of Nigerian naira owed to other banks.

But Etisalat had countered this information, stating that it had paid $500 million up till February 2017. It said the outstanding loan to the lenders stood at $227 million and 113 billion naira, a total of about $574 million if the naira portion was converted to US dollars.

Nigerian media had reported that the consortium of banks had threatened to take over the operations of the telecommunication company unless it repaid the loan in full. 

The situation forced Etisalat to enter into negotiations with the banks, seeking unreasonable write-offs, which the banks rejected. The impasse eventually led to Etisalat Group’s withdrawal from its Nigerian operations, leaving behind Mubadala and EMTS.

8 COMMENTS

  1. An article based on facts of the upcoming cfo for PTCL but what relevance does it have to our market and his future role here? Mentioning his achievements would give us more insights and hope for a better PTCL rather than flipping his past with a twist clearly out to tarnish his reputation before he even enters office. Please revisit the core values of your journalism.

  2. Totally negative article and based on the principle to tarnished somebody’s credibility soon after the announcement. Need to reconsider yourself as a journalist.

  3. The person who previously failed to repay the loan of $1.2 billion is now going to head PTCL, and to write its doom as well, if it wasn’t doomed already. God save PTCL.

  4. From the 10 years , ptcl’s service is very poor, i m a 35 years old user , now i hv . dsl service , & i’m not satisfy, especially broadband mean internet which is going👇day by day ,
    Im SHAFIQ AHMED (0223810997)

    PL IM0ROV

  5. Mr. Mathew Willsher welcome CEO PTCL, the first Telco in Pakistan prospect as a phone/broad-band company which provided Pakistan with a so called Digital Broadband Services Network. Services are provided on an analog Aluminized plastic insulated cable mostly used for drying clothes during washing drying in the open skies/sun-shine for “Dhobi Ghat” network. Myself being one of the biggest Dhobi Ghat network for BB/Phone services that hardly works.
    PTCL always claim this service as the Digital Service from Pakistan. The Digital Service which the company expected to deliver is the FTTH/G-Pon services not available todate.
    Appreciate if you could investigate about the mystery of Dhobi Ghat Digital Broadband Network Services.
    Appreciate if you could see my GPon services request pending in your records. With Best Wishes

  6. Comments better than the article.

    It seems, Etisalat is not taking the Pakistan market very seriously – appointing someone who doesn’t know the ecosystem of Pakistan, is bound to face hiccups and inner-cultural corporate challenges.

    Matthew is joining a company which doesn’t run, but treads at a snail’s pace, let along bringing it to profit.
    Keeping PTCL under duress, pressure, under-developed is a collaborative effort of other telcos to stay afloat.
    Who’s side is Matthews, is still unknown.

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