MTN Nigeria shares soaring after $5bn listing

Telecommunications firm MTN Nigeria has had strong days of trading since it joined the Nigerian Stock Exchange in a listing by introduction on 16 May. As it moves closer to what the company may feel is “fair value”, chances of a future initial public offering (IPO) increase.

The $5.1bn listing of 20.4 billion (20,354,513,050) ordinary shares of MTN Nigeria Communications Plc (MTNN) at N90 per share on the Premium Board makes it the second biggest stock on the NSE after Dangote Cement plc and ahead of Nestle Nigeria plc, according to Bloomberg. It is the Nigerian unit of MTN Group Ltd, Africa’s biggest mobile-phone company.

Journalist Shola Lawal writing in Mail and Guardian newspaper described the scene: “At exactly 2.30pm, when the stock market closed on Thursday, MTN Nigeria’s chairperson Pascal Dozie and Ferdi Moolman, MTN Nigeria’s CEO, excitedly clanged metal sticks on a gong on the crowded trade floor at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) building. The room, filled with brokers in their maroon jackets, erupted in celebration.”

The shares were priced at N90 and have since climbed some 10% a day to reach N119.75 by close of business on 20 May. The main shareholders are only letting a few shares go until the share gets a higher price, according to an interesting interview by Kayode Omosebi, Team Lead, Financial Advisory at ARM Securities on CNBC. He estimates the stock will keep moving until it gets past N130 when more stock could become available, but his firm estimates “fair value” at N149.

Omesebi adds that interest has been wide including retail investors, and could spark a revival of interest in other equities. It will also widen liquidity across telecom stocks in Africa as investors will have a wider range of shares in South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and other markets.

The NSE listing is part of a settlement with the Federal Government of Nigeria after a $5.2bn fine was imposed for failing to meet at 2016 deadline to register SIM cards. In September 2018 there was a $2bn bill for back taxes, and the Central Bank of Nigeria said it has illegally repatriated $8.1bn between 2007 and 2015.

The initial plan was for a share offer or IPO, and MTN Chairman Dozie was not giving any timetable for when that will come: “We were to have an IPO but due to unforeseen circumstances we couldn’t. Half bread is better than none.”

Oscar Onyema, Chief Executive Officer of NSE, said in a press release: “Having MTN Nigeria listed in our market is a testament of the exchange’s commitment to building a dynamic and inclusive market and creating channels for sustainable investment. This listing will promote liquidity for MTN Nigeria, enhance its value and increase transparency, as our platform remains one of the best avenues for raising capital and enabling sustainable growth for national development”.

Analysts also hope that the listing will encourage international oil companies and two other key telecoms firms, Airtel and Globacom.

Mail and Guardian quotes Ugo Obi-Chukwu, founder of leading financial literacy website, Nairametrics: “The last time we had any major listings was in the early 2000s and it was the Government that stimulated those listings… This will open the floodgates for more listings and possibly renew an interest in the stock market.”

The premium board is “a listing segment for the elite group of issuers that meet The Exchange’s most stringent corporate governance and listing standards. This Board features Dangote Cement Plc, FBN Holdings Plc, Zenith International Bank Plc, Access Bank Plc, Lafarge Africa Plc, Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc and United Bank for Africa Plc,” according to the NSE.

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