South Africa’s MTN is one step closer to listing publicly in Nigeria—but it won’t be doing so via an initial public offering (IPO).
Africa’s largest telecoms operator has converted its Nigerian business to a public company before a listing by introduction on the Nigerian exchange, rather than an launching IPO as previously expected. Unlike with an IPO, a listing by introduction will see MTN list already existing shares without raising new funding or issuing new shares. The listing is expected to happen by June 30.
The proposed listing of MTN’s Nigerian business dates back to a billion-dollar settlement of a protracted SIM card dispute with the Nigerian government in 2016. After initially being slapped with a record $5.1 billion fine, the telecoms giant which hired Eric Holder, former US attorney general, to handle its negotiations, settled the dispute for $1.7 billion in staggered payments as well as a commitment to list its shares in Nigeria.
But as Quartz Africa has reported, MTN began rethinking plans to launch an IPO in Nigeria last October amid another high profile tussle with the Nigerian government, this time an allegation that it illegally repatriated $8.1 billion in profits and owed $2 billion in taxes. In an emailed statement to Quartz Africa at the time, MTN stated that prior to the dispute, “the plan was to meet this listing obligation by an initial public offering (IPO) on the Nigerian Stock Exchange” but that continuing with the listing by IPO “will make it challenging to get a fair valuation” given allegations by the government. Last December, the dispute was settled for $53 million.
MTN’s listing by introduction is in contrast with its mobile money-based IPO in Ghana which saw the company raise around $237 million with over 100,000 Ghanaian nationals purchasing MTN shares using mobile money accounts. But despite its troubling history of billion-dollar fines and curtailed IPO plans, MTN is not showing any signs of slowing down in Nigeria as the company plans to launch a mobile money service in Africa’s largest economy this quarter.
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