MTN Group plans to raise about US$500m (about R6bn) 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 and Citigroup have been advising Africa’s largest mobile phone company on the disposal of as much as 30% of the Lagos-based unit on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the details aren’t public. Most of the shares will be sold to local institutions and individuals, though foreign investors could be brought in to ensure the process is a success, one of the people said.
Discussions are ongoing and a final decision hasn’t been made, they said.
Spokespeople for MTN and Citigroup in Johannesburg didn’t immediately comment. Standard Bank didn’t immediately respond to calls seeking comment.
MTN agreed to list the Nigerian unit as part of a June 2016 agreement to pay a $1bn fine for missing a deadline to disconnect unregistered subscribers amid a security crackdown. The penalty, originally set at $5.2bn, led to the resignation of the Johannesburg-based company’s CEO Sifiso Dabengwa and a slump in the share price that’s yet to be clawed back.
The stock extended gains, and traded 4.5% higher at R128.83 as of the close in Johannesburg, giving a market value of R243bn.
If successful, the Lagos share sale will be the biggest on the Nigerian Stock Exchange after Starcomms, which raised $796m when it listed in 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. MTN, Nigeria’s biggest mobile phone company with just over 50m 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, South Africa’s market leader, was ordered to list 25% of its Tanzanian business last year, raising $213m. — Reported by Loni Prinsloo and Ambereen Choudhury, with assistance from Paul Wallace, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP