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MTN: We’re not under pressure to list shares in Nigeria

By Adeyemi Adepetun (Lagos) and Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze(Auja)
31 July 2016   |   4:54 am
More facts emerged yesterday, on reasons behind South Africa’s telecommunications firm, MTN’s decision to list its shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), by 2017.


• Firm Silent On Percentage To Be Listed
• It’s Part Of The Settlement Arrangement — NCC
• No MTN Affiliate In Africa, Middle East Is Quoted On A Local Stock Exchange

More facts emerged yesterday, on reasons behind South Africa’s telecommunications firm, MTN’s decision to list its shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), by 2017.
Last week, it was rumoured that the telecommunications firm may have been arm-twisted to release some shares for investors from its host community, Nigeria.

An industry source, who attended the meeting where it was agreed to slash the fine imposed on MTN for violating NCC’s order on SIM Card Registration, from $5.2b to N330b, told The Guardian that the telecommunications firm was never forced into agreeing with the listing criteria.

According to him, before the meeting, which was held in June, where the decision was reached to slash the fine, a committee was set up to look at the modalities of resolving the logjam without any party having many bruises.

He said the committee comprised major industry stakeholders, including top government officials; the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON); Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON); State Security Service (SSS); Office of the Attorney General of the Federation; Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the MTN Group.The source said the committee discovered that if MTN had been publicly quoted in the country, it would have been very difficult for it to flout established orders and rules.

According to him, public quoted companies are under compulsion to comply strictly with corporate governance code, which guard against flouting of established rules and regulations in the country. Though the telecommunications firm agreed to have violated established laws of the land, the source said, “They were never arm-twisted to agreeing to list their shares in Nigeria. They equally promised to become more abiding to established statutes in the country.”

Speaking in the same vein, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said though the listing was part of a settlement arrangement with the Federal Government on the N1.4t fine imposed on MTN by NCC for contravening the commission’s guidelines, the decision to trade on NSE was solely taken by the company.

Head of Public Relations Unit in the Commission, Mr Ruben Moka told The Guardian that there had been clamour by stakeholders and Nigerians for telecommunication companies in the country to list their shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

He said the proposed listing, would bring value addition to the nation’s economy and also increase transparency and corporate governance within the organisation.
Meanwhile, MTN, which is still silent on the percentage of shares to be listed in Nigeria, expressed deep commitment to the wellbeing of Nigeria pledging that in further demonstration of “our unreserved support to the cardinal points of the government, we would welcome an opportunity to engage the FGN on how we can identify with and support a key national imperative or project.”

An MTN source debunked claims of being forced to list shares in the country. According to him, “it was simply part of the agreement reached between the telecommunications firm and the Federal Government in resolving the logjam that surrounded the fine payment.”He informed that listing of shares in Nigeria was not to make Nigerians pay the balance of the fine, which has been staggered till 2019.

According to him, apart from profits, “the firm can go to consortium of banks local and international to raise fund, which we have done severally, whenever we want to expand services. That we want Nigerians to pay for the fine was not factual at all.”He said the firm is still working out the percentage that would be offered for listing in Nigeria.

Indeed, in 2012, The Guardian did a report tiled: ‘Bringing telecoms to the capital market: Issues before regulator, operators.’ The then Corporate Services Executive for MTN Nigeria, Akinwale Goodluck, faulted the compulsory move to get telecommunications firms list their shares on the exchange. Goodluck emphasised the need for greater depth of the Nigerian capital market.

Giving a vivid explanation on the issue in an email reply to The Guardian enquiry, former MTN Nigeria’s Corporate Communications Manager, Ms. Funmi Omogbenigun said: “No MTN affiliate in any of the operating units in Africa and the Middle East is quoted on a local stock exchange, including MTN South Africa. They are all private companies. The entity quoted on the JSE is the holding company known as the MTN Group, not MTN SA, which like MTN Nigeria is one of the 22 operating units that come under the MTN Group.”

While other telecommunications firms have remained silent about when their shares would be listed in Nigeria, some of them, about three years ago claimed not to have broken even.

In an interview with The Guardian in 2011, the then Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Nigeria, Rajan Swaroop, said the telecommunications firm has no plans to list its shares on the stock market, now or in future.Joining his counterpart at Airtel, Steve Evans, a former CEO of Etisalat, said the company was not profitable enough to list its shares on the exchange.