MTN May Reduce Stake in Nigeria to 65%, Selloff 14%

MTN Group Limited

By Dipo Olowookere

Leading telecommunications company in Africa, MTN Group Limited, is considering selling off some of its majority stake in its Nigerian unit.

The local arm of the telecom giant was listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in May 2019 after years of back and forth with the domestic authorities after it was slammed with a huge fine for failing to disconnect some unregistered subscribers on its network.

MTN wants to raise fresh capital to pay down debt and simplify a portfolio of telecom businesses that spreads across Africa and the Middle East, Bloomberg said in a report yesterday.

About $4.1 billion is expected to be raised from an extended asset-sale plan, with stakes in a major towers business and the carrier’s Nigerian unit among those earmarked for sale.

To make this a reality, it is mulling to reduce majority ownership of its business in Nigeria, its biggest and most profitable market, to about 65 percent. The firm, according to Bloomberg, intends to offload about 14 percent stake in MTN Nigeria Communications Plc.

Business Post reports that at the local stock market on Thursday, MTN Nigeria was the second most traded equity, only behind GTBank, selling 37.6 million units of its shares worth N4.6 billion, with its share price closing flat at N120 per unit.

Relying on a response to an email to MTN Group, Bloomberg said spokeswoman of the firm noted that the group is also focusing investment on its main markets, including $1.6 billion for Nigeria announced on Wednesday, when executives of the company had talks with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, adding that the organisation is “seriously investigating” the prospect of taking part in a planned privatisation of Ethiopia’s phone monopoly.

MTN Group has generated about $945.9 million since kicking off a strategy to offload non-essential businesses sometimes ago and is ready to step up the process.

IHS Holdings Limited, Africa’s largest operator of wireless towers, is on the list and the Johannesburg-based company valued its stake in the firm at $1.6 billion in June.

IHS is reviving plans for an initial public offering, people with knowledge of the situation said last year, after scrapping a US share sale in 2018. The Mauritius-based company declined to comment on the matter.

MTN has sold minority stakes in two tower joint ventures for $523 million, redeemed preference shares in Nigeria and offloaded e-commerce businesses such as booking site Travelstart since starting the sale program last year.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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