MTN Group in South Africa has reiterated its commitment to list its Nigerian subsidiary on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in the next six months as part of the settlement of the $1 billion fine imposed on it in 2015 by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) over the failure by the telecoms company to deactivate 5.2 million unregistered SIM cards on its network.
The chief executive of MTN Group, Rob Shuter, made the disclosure during an interview with Bloomberg Television on Wednesday.
According to him, "MTN Group Ltd. is focused on laying the groundwork for an initial public offering of its Nigerian business and should complete the process in the next six months.
"We have a lot of advisers running around getting everything ready. It's a complicated process and there's a lot of regulation that needs to be arranged.
"We are moving forward well with the project and anticipate concluding that in the next six months or so."
MTN agreed to the Nigerian initial public offer (IPO) as part of the settlement of a $1 billion fine imposed by the NCC on MTN in 2015.
Africa's biggest wireless operator by sales and subscriber number incurred the penalty after missing a deadline to disconnect unregistered subscribers amid a security crackdown.
According to NCC, each contravention on SIM card registration attracts N200,000 and MTN had 5.2 million unregistered SIM cards that were detected on its network in 2015, amounting to a fine of N1.04 trillion ($5 billion) at the time.
The fine was however reduced by 25 per cent, following pleas from MTN. The firm got a further reduction to N780 billion, which was spread over a three-year period to ease payment.
MTN has since commenced payment of the fine and is expected to complete payment in 2018.
Since then, the CEO said he has been pleased with MTN's operations in Nigeria, the biggest of the Johannesburg-based company's 22 markets across Africa and the Middle East.
Shuter joined MTN in March after holding executive roles at Vodafone Group Plc in Europe. He is the permanent replacement for Sifiso Dabengwa, who resigned after the Nigerian fine was imposed. Chairman Phuthuma Nhleko had run the company in the interim period.
Shuter said his company was not holding back on expansion plans in the Middle East, even as U.S. President Donald Trump objected to the terms of a nuclear deal with Iran that led to the lifting of economic sanctions last year.
MTN has about 49.5 million customers in Iran, just under Nigeria's 50.3 million and has repatriated almost $1 billion from the country in the last 12 months.
Shuter said: "In months to come I think there will be an opportunity to participate in the consolidation of the market."
MTN shares rose 0.2 per cent to 122.96 rand as of 10:53 a.m. on Wednesday in Johannesburg, valuing the company at 231 billion rand ($16.3 billion).