9 November 2012

Nigeria: Local Companies Lured By London Stock Exchange

Firms from the continent's second biggest economy are being tempted by the liquidity, investor base, and profile of the LSE.

As the Nigerian Stock Exchange scrambles to regain the ground it lost after the equities bubble burst in 2008, catalysing a $50bn crash, a growing number of Nigerian groups are being tempted by London's broad investor base and liquidity.

The London Stock Exchange is actively looking to grow the number of Nigerian firms accessing its markets and is in discussions with its Nigerian counterpart to simplify the dual listings process, allowing immediate trading and settling of securities in both markets, Ibukun Adebayo, the LSE's head of business development for the Middle East and Africa told This is Africa.

"The level of interest in the country from global investment houses operating out of London has grown significantly, particularly in the last couple of years," he said. "There's been a distinct pick up in terms of the value that African countries see in having a LSE listing."

The pipeline of companies now preparing for initial public offerings in London "has grown significantly compared to this time last year", he added, without naming groups.

For businesses which have outgrown their own bourse the attraction is greater than a new realm of investors. "It's about more than just capital raising. It's about profile building, the binding effect of meeting higher regulatory standards, plus London's ability to adequately price risk from this part of the world," Mr Adebayo explained.

There are five companies either incorporated or operating in Nigeria now quoted on London markets, worth a total of $3.5bn. This September, the West Africa-focused energy group Eland Oil & Gas became the largest company to float on the LSE's Alternative Investment Market, raising $188m after it partnered with local oil firm Starcrest to buy a stake in a Nigerian oil block.

Zenith Bank, one of Nigeria's leading lenders, also said last week that it plans a secondary listing in London, which will be facilitated by JP Morgan pending shareholder approval on November 21. It follows other top-tier financial institutions Guaranty Trust Bank and Diamond Bank.

Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote, is aiming to float a 20 per cent stake of his $11bn cement business next year - the first listing of one of his companies outside Nigeria. But Dangote Cement is grappling to meet the LSE's stringent main market corporate governance requirements, with analysts predicting that it will make it to market in late 2013 at the earliest.

"Dangote, if finally completed, will be the first Nigerian name to have a direct listing in London," said Andy Gboka, equity research analyst for sub-Saharan Africa at Exotix.

Nigeria is not the only African country to have growing representation on London markets. A total of 98 African companies are listed on the LSE - the majority on AIM. With a total market capitalisation of $70bn, the London Exchange is the biggest market for African companies outside of Johannesburg. UK-based investors have tended to have a bigger appetite for emerging market assets than their South African counterparts, analysts point out, and African companies have raised more than $5.7bn since 2008.

There is more activity to come. "Our pipeline is active and stronger than it was last year, when we had flotations from 23 companies from Africa, which raised about $637m," Mr Adebayo said.

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