MTN insists on offloading 15% stake in Nigerian subsidiary

MTN Group has reiterated its commitment to offload 15% of its shareholding in MTN Nigeria to indigenous investors in phases amidst the disruption of stock market activities by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The move comes almost a year after MTN listed the unit on the county’s stock exchange, valuing the business at $5 billion at the time.

Its proposed sale in Nigeria is part of a broader three-to-five-year plan to dispose $1.4 billion-worth of assets, which could be put on the fence for now, added Mupita.

The carrier’s Chief Financial Officer, Ralph Mupita, who disclosed this in a recent interview with Bloomberg, said the reverberations of the coronavirus outbreak in the international financial markets did not diminish the imperative of selling part of MTN’s stake.

“In Nigeria, we still want to do part of our retail offer, even if it’s a smaller part of the total planned sale. We are applying our minds to doing this at the moment.”

Mupita said the company, naturally, had no visibility on how it could all play out, but pointed to strong cash generation for its pre-paid contracts business and a resilient balance sheet.

He also told Bloomberg the company was preparing for a larger increase in data usage as more markets go into lockdown.

“We want to make sure that our networks have resilience and capacity,” he said. “We are looking at where we can drive broader coverage.”

The telco, currently Nigeria’s second biggest publicly quoted company by market capitalisation, is offloading part of its shares in its Nigerian operations after frequently coming head-to-head with the Nigerian Government over tax evasion and regulatory bottlenecks with potential fines coming to about $15 billion in just five years.

Since debuting on the Nigerian Stock Exchange last May, MTNN stock has been at the mercy of negative market sentiments, slumping to its listing price of N90 yesterday after almost eleven months of listing.

The South-Africa based Africa’s biggest wireless operator which holds 79% state in its subsidiary operations in Nigeria, made one third of its income and nearly 40% of profit before interest, taxes from Nigeria in 2019.