By Dipo Olowookere
A senior official of MTN on Wednesday explained why the South Africa-based telecom giant was yet to list its shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
In 2016, it was announced that MTN Group would offer part of its Nigerian unit to citizens of the country through an Initial Public Offering (IPO). The company said it was planning to raise about $500 million from the exercise.
But nearly three year after, the much-hyped proposed listing on the NSE was yet to become a reality because of postponements.
It was initially said that the exercise would be done before end of the first half of 2018, but was later moved to end of the year.
The latest information is that the listing of MTN Nigeria shares would now be done before the end of H1 2019 or early Q3 2019.
Addressing journalists in Lagos yesterday, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MTN, Mr Ferdinand Moolman, explained why the exercise has been delayed for too long.
According to him, the company was making sure it sorted out some issues with the Nigerian government, which has imposed different fines on the telco.
After an initial $1 billion fine for SIM registration infractions in 2016, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last August asked the company to refund $8.1 billion it allegedly repatriated illegally.
MTN took the matter to court and an out-of-court settlement was reached and the firm was told to only pay $52.6 million.
While that was going on, precisely in September last year, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr Abubakar Malami, asked the network operator to pay $2 billion in outstanding taxes for 10 years.
During his chat with newsmen on Wednesday, Mr Moolman emphasised that these issues were the main reason for the delay in listing MTN Nigeria shares on the stock exchange.
“Truth be told, it would not be wise to offer shares to the public if we had outstanding issues still hanging.
“We thank God we were able to resolve [the issue with the CBN] on December 12, 2018. So, we are now feverishly working toward listing, and we plan to do the listing before the end of H1 or early Q3 of this year,” the CEO said.
Mr Moolman further said, “We have always been serious about the proposed listing, but like I said earlier, we have to remove every bottlenecks before we allow the exercise to fly.”
“Nigerians already owned 20 percent of MTN shares, which are not publicly traded, but were sold through over-the-counter (OTC), and other investment schemes,” he added.
“We needed to change to a public company because we are a private company at the moment before we can list. We need to send our directors to training for compliance with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requirements. So a lot of work had happened to prepare for the listing. Then the CBN issue happened,” Mr Moolman told journalists.
Commenting on how the exercise would be done, the chief executive said, “We anticipate to do it in two phases; the first phase will be to list and then start trading in our shares and then lifting it for bigger participation.”
However, he assured that, “There is a lot of value we can bring to this market,” relying on the 17 percent growth in revenue the firm recorded in 2018 financial year, where its turnover hit over N1 trillion, becoming the firm Nigerian company to achieve this feat.
Business Post reports that last year, MTN publicly listed its shares in Ghana and was the biggest listing in the West African nation’s stock exchange.
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