MTN Group plans to push ahead with an initial public offering of its Nigeria unit in April or May once Africa’s biggest wireless carrier resolves a US$2-billion (R28.7-billion) tax dispute in the country.
When the tax matter has been settled, “the board can assign a value to the company and we do an IPO”, spokesman Tobe Okigbo told reporters in Lagos on Wednesday. “It is difficult to put a value on it when there is such an issue.”
Nigeria’s attorney-general accused Johannesburg-based MTN of not paying all its taxes in September, and the two sides have yet to reach an agreement. A court hearing on the matter is scheduled in the country’s commercial capital for 26 March. The dispute has cast doubt on MTN’s long-held plans to list the local unit — part of a deal to resolve a separate regulatory tussle in 2016.
While the tax and IPO issues rumble on, MTN has received a permit to start mobile payments in Nigeria, the biggest of its 20 markets around Africa and the Middle East. Financial services is a key growth market for the carrier due to a scarcity of banks in many parts of the continent and rising take-up of smartphones and data services.
MTN will start selling a new smartphone in Nigeria that costs about 18 000 naira (about R715), which the company sees as a way of increasing data revenue, according to Ferdi Moolman, the Nigerian unit’s CEO.
MTN shares rose 0.3% to R95.21 as of 3.37pm in Johannesburg, the fifth consecutive day of gains since it announced a R15-billion disposal plan last week. That included online retailer Jumia Technologies, in which MTN is the biggest shareholder, which announced IPO plans in New York on Tuesday. — Reported by Emele Onu, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP