MTN Group has said it may postpone plans to list its operation on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) until 2018, as it is making efforts to resolve a regulatory dispute and awaits an economic recovery.
“It’s a work in progress and hopefully within the 12 to 18 month period, we will be able to do it. Regulatory issues need to be resolved, and the macro conditions need to have improved,’’ Phuthuma Nhleko, MTN Chairman and Acting Chief Executive Officer, told Fin24.
2016 was a very difficult year for Africa’s largest wireless carrier as the Nigerian government asked it to pay a heavy fine for refusing to deactivate 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards. As a matter of fact, the group’s listing on NSE is one of the measures imposed on the firm in settling the $1 billion fine. It said in July that the listing would take place in 2017, depending on market conditions.
“We’ve always intended to list – we have reaffirmed that with the government. Clearly, we can only list when the conditions are conducive,” Nhleko added.
In August last year, MTN announced that it would list its Nigerian unit on the local stock exchange this year as part of a deal with the Nigerian government to settle a regulatory fine relating to the telecom company’s failure to disconnect five million unregistered SIM cards. MTN also agreed to pay N330 billion over three years. Following the conclusion of the deal, MTN has faced fresh accusations of regulatory impropriety after Dino Melaye, the Senator representing Kogi West, accused the mobile operator of illegally repatriating $14 billion out of Nigeria over ten years. The latest dispute has threatened to delay the planned listing, Bloomberg reported.
“We’ve always intended to list – we have reaffirmed that with the government,” said Nhleko, who will revert to his prior role as non-executive chairman when Rob Shuter, the CEO designate, resumes in March. “Clearly, we can only list when the conditions are conducive.”
MTN Nigeria is the group’s largest and most profitable subsidiary – as well as Nigeria’s largest mobile operator – with over 60 million users. MTN operations in 22 countries in Africa and Middle East, with a total of about 235 million users.