MTN Group is facing pressure to list its unit in Uganda as Africa’s largest mobile phone company seeks to renew a licence in the country.
While selling shares on the local bourse isn’t a precondition for the granting of a new 10-year contract, the East African nation wants “Ugandans to be part of the company”, according to Godfrey Mutabazi, the executive director of the country’s telecommunications regulator. MTN’s current licence expires in October.
A listing of the Uganda business would follow similar moves by MTN in Ghana and Nigeria — both agreed to by the Johannesburg-based company as part of a deal with regulators. The carrier has been embroiled in a number of spats with local authorities around the continent in recent years, most notably in Nigeria, where it agreed to a US$1-billion fine in 2016 alongside an initial public offering of its unit in Lagos.
The carrier is also offering a 35% stake of its Ghanaian unit to local investors in return for access to local spectrum, in what will be that country’s biggest-ever initial public offering.
An MTN spokesman said the carrier couldn’t immediately comment on a potential Uganda listing. The shares gained 0.7% to R102.16 as of 10.01am in Johannesburg, valuing the company at R192-billion.
MTN Uganda has a market share of about 55%, Mutabazi said. The company says is had almost 10.9 million customers in the country as of the end of March, compared to more than 221 million across 22 markets in Africa and the Middle East.
Last month, MTN complained that officials from the Internal Security Organisation raided its data centre in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, and disconnected four servers, posing a risk to customer data. — Reported by Fred Ojambo, with assistance from Loni Prinsloo, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP