Nearly three years after MTN settled a fight with the Nigerian authorities over the disconnection of unregistered SIM cards, the telecoms company has met the key condition of the agreement and listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
The company said in a statement on Wednesday that it had received approval from the NSE to list its Nigerian arm — MTN Nigeria Communications — on the bourse’s premium board.
The listing — valued at a reported R71-billion — is expected to deepen the Nigerian capital market, increasing its attractiveness to investors. MTN will join the likes of Dangote Cement — the largest company on the exchange, according to website Trading Economics — as well as other constituents such as Nestlé Nigeria and Nigeria Breweries.
The placement, which took place on Thursday, was done by way of an introductory listing, the company said, meaning that the shares of existing MTN Nigeria shareholders would be listed without an additional public sale of shares. From this point, all MTN Nigeria shareholders will be free to trade their shares on the NSE.
The Nigerian business is owned by parent MTN Group, which holds 78.8%; Nigerian investors, who hold 19.4%; and other smaller investors, who hold 1.8%.
But MTN Nigeria’s chief executive Ferdi Moolman said that the company still intended to pursue a future public offer to give more Nigerians access to the company’s stock.
In 2015 Nigerian authorities sought to fine MTN more than $5-billion, accusing it of failing to disconnect unregistered SIM cards. After a protracted battle, MTN agreed to pay the Nigerian federal government a reduced $1.6-billion. The deal came with conditions including, alongside a listing, that it always ensures full compliance with the terms and conditions of its licence as issued by the Nigerian Communication Commission.
This was by no means the last battle MTN would have with Nigerian authorities.
Last year the central bank of Nigeria demanded that it return more than $8-billion to the country, which the bank said had been expatriated between 2007 and 2015 in breach of foreign exchange controls. In December, MTN settled, paying about $53-million and admitting no liability.
It has also been accused by the state’s auditor general of avoiding $2-billion in taxes. But the company is challenging this matter in court.