MTN Group Ltd. plans to raise about $500 million from the sale of shares in its Nigerian business during the first half of the year, fulfilling the terms of a deal struck with the West African nation to settle a record fine, according to people familiar with the matter.
Standard Bank Group Ltd. and Citigroup Inc. have been advising Africa’s largest mobile-phone company on the disposal of as much as 30 percent of the Lagos-based unit on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, according to reports. Most of the shares would be sold to local institutions and individuals, though foreign investors could be brought in to ensure the process is a success, reports say.
However, the discussions are still ongoing and a final decision hasn’t been made.
MTN agreed to list the Nigerian unit as part of a June 2016 agreement to pay a $1 billion fine for missing a deadline to disconnect unregistered subscribers amid a security crackdown. The penalty, originally set at $5.2 billion, led to the resignation of the Johannesburg-based company’s then chief executive officer, a first ever full-year loss and a slump in the share price that’s yet to be clawed back.
The stock extended gains on Wednesday, and traded 4.5 percent higher at 128.83 rand as of the close in Johannesburg, giving a market value of 243 billion rand ($20 billion).
If successful, the Lagos share sale will be the biggest on the Nigerian Stock Exchange after Starcomms Plc, which raised $796 million when it listed in 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. MTN, Nigeria’s biggest mobile-phone company with just over 50 million subscribers as of end September, slumped to a loss in 2016 as it absorbed the financial impact of the fine, though said last month it returned to profit the following year.
Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African governments are trying to gain more from international mobile-phone operators taking advantage of rising smartphone use and faster data speeds. MTN has also agreed to sell shares in Ghana as one of the conditions of a deal to gain spectrum rights, while Vodacom Group Ltd., South Africa’s market leader, was ordered to list 25 percent of its Tanzanian business last year, raising $213 million.
MTN had 230.2 million subscribers in 22 countries across Africa and the Middle East as of the end of September, with Nigeria, Iran and South Africa its three biggest markets.
Frontpage January 28, 2019