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Market Digest Nigeria

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MTN to hold investor call on sim registration in Nigeria

Mobile operator MTN says on Thursday afternoon it will give investors greater clarity on a meeting it held with Nigerian telecoms regulators earlier this week.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) — which is conducting an audit of mobile users — ordered the country’s network operators last week to suspend the sale and activation of new SIM cards — a move that had MTN investors worried about the company’s prospects in its biggest market. Shares in MTN fell 10% a day after the announcement was made. On Thursday morning, MTN said it would hold a call with investors to discuss the situation in the West African country. “Thursday’s teleconference thus intends to provide additional context to the market on this issue, as well as the NCC’s most recent announcement,” the group said in a statement.

The NCC has embarked on an audit of the country’s subscriber registration database, after a directive from communications and digital economy minister Isa Ali Pantami. This comes on the heels of a similar exercise conducted in September 2019. The NCC held a meeting on Monday with industry stakeholders, including the National Information Technology Development Agency, the National Identity Management Commission, as well as the management teams from the country’s mobile network providers.

“The need to consolidate the achievements of last year’s SIM registration audit and improve the performance and sanity of the sector was exhaustively discussed and all stakeholders agreed that urgent drastic measures have now become inevitable to improve the integrity and transparency of the SIM registration process,” the regulator said after the meeting. After that meeting it gave mobile operators two weeks — to December 30 — to update SIM registration records. All SIMs without valid national identity numbers are to be blocked from the networks.

Nigeria is MTN’s largest market, contributing about a third of the group’s earnings, and looks set to grow in importance as the group pursues a strategy shift that includes focusing more on the continent. The group announced in August that it will be exiting the Middle East, with the first divestment of its 75% stake in MTN Syria. The group recently closed one of its messiest chapters in history when the company agreed to pay more than $1bn (R15bn) to settle a $5.2bn dispute with Nigerian authorities and another $53m to end a row over dividend repatriation.

Source: Business Day

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