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Lucent 'Not Interested' in Nitel

Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) denies reports it is part of a consortium called FT Networks that is bidding to take control of Nigeria's national operator, Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd. (Nitel) .

News outlet African News Dimension reported today that Lucent, as a member of the FT Networks consortium, was one of seven preferred bidders for the 51 percent stake in Nitel that the Nigerian government is trying to sell. "The U.S. firm is bidding for Nitel under the FT Networks consortium," stated the report.

The report also said the consortium was added to the shortlist, after an appeal, because of Lucent's telecom pedigree.

But Lucent denies its involvement. "The story is inaccurate," says a spokesman. "We are not participating, and we're not interested in this opportunity" to be an equity stakeholder in FT Networks.

However, when asked if Lucent has any sort of relationship with FT Networks, the spokesman declined to comment.

The Nigerian government is desperate to offload Nitel, and it has already failed in three attempts to find a new backer that can save the carrier from imploding. Most recently the government rejected a bid of $256.5 million from Orascom Telecom , saying it was too low.

The other bidders in this latest process are South Africa's incumbent carrier Telkom SA Ltd. (NYSE/Johannesburg: TKG), Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates, competitive Nigerian carrier Globacom Ltd. , Investcom Holding , a partnership between Nigerian conglomerate Transcorp and BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), and another partnership of Afro Telecom and Korea's KT Corp. . (See Emerging Markets See More Mobile M&A.)

Mobile Telecommunications Co. (MTC) had also been shortlisted, but pulled out after one of its subsidiaries took a controlling stake in Nigerian mobile operator Vmobile. (See Celtel Takes Control of Vmobile.)

The Nigerian government is expected to announce a winning bidder before the end of June.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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