MTN plans 200bn naira expansion in Nigeria

SIM CARD sellers for MTN wait for customers at a roadside kiosk in Lagos, Nigeria. MTN is close to listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Bloomberg
JOHANNESBURG – Africa’s largest telecoms company MTN yesterday confirmed it planned to raise 200billion naira (R7.91bn) this year to expand operations in its biggest market of Nigeria.

The plan surfaced during a presentation by MTN Nigeria chief financial officer Adekunle Awobodu to analysts in the country to finance capital expenditure and increase its reach and efficiency.

MTN is in the process of listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in Lagos this month.

An MTN spokesperson who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed reports that the company would raise funds to expand operations in the country.

The planned capital raise comes a week after the company scored a major victory, following the High Court in Lagos ruling that it could challenge the Attorney-General of the Federation’s (AGF) claim of $2bn (R28.56bn) in unpaid duties and taxes between 2007 and 2017.

MTN is said to have targeted different funding sources that include bank loans and bonds to raise the planned capital expenditure.

Ofentse Dazela, director for pricing research at Africa Analysis, said that expansion plans were expected, given that the company had been trying to list on the Nigerian Stock Exchange for some time.

“Considering that this operator has been haemorrhaging funds including paying fines, it comes as no surprise that they would want to raise additional funds to support their expansion plans,” said Dazela, referring to MTN paying a $1bn fine in 2016 related to a failure to disconnect unregistered subscribers.

SIM CARD sellers for MTN wait for customers at a roadside kiosk in Lagos, Nigeria. MTN is close to listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Bloomberg

Last year MTN also agreed to pay just $52.6million to settle the Nigerian Central Bank’s claim over historic dividend repatriations.

This was a fraction of the $8.1bn initial fine for allegedly improperly repatriating monies between 2007 and 2015.

The AGF approached the court, urging it to strike MTN’s suit off the roll on the grounds that it was instituted outside the time frame prescribed by law.

MTN said last week that it had started negotiations with the Nigerian Stock Exchange to complete the listing.

It also said that it had registered to list 20.4billion ordinary shares at 0.02 naira each with the country’s securities.

MTN also said last week that the group had met its medium-term revenue growth target with a 10percent increase led by its operations in South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana.

It said the Nigerian unit had gained 2.1million customers and now boasted 60.3million mobile subscribers at the end of the March quarter.

The company also said that Nigeria’s data revenue had increased by 32.4percent, while voice revenue increased 12.7percent.

The company said its Nigerian unit had rolled out 1188 sites across Nigeria’s key focus cities.

MTN shares closed 0.52percent lower on the JSE yesterday at R98.29.