15 February 2019

Nigeria: Mixed Feelings Trail MTN Nigeria June Listing

Some capital market operators have expressed mixed feelings on the planned listing by introduction of the shares of MTN Nigeria on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in June.

The operators spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in separate interviews in Lagos.

They were reacting to the recent announcement by Rob Shuter, President and Chief Executive Officer of MTN Group, that the shares of the telecommunication firm would be listed by introduction on the local bourse by June.

"We have decided though to pursue the listing by means of a listing by introduction. It is phase one," he said.

He said the first phase of the company's listing would be completed by the first half of the year, while the shares would be open to Nigerian investors as part of the second phase of the listing. However, Mr Gbadebo Olatokunbo, shareholder activist and co-founder of Nigeria Shareholders Solidarity Association, said there was no excitement about the proposed listing of MTN's shares.

Olatokunbo said constant violation of Nigerian regulatory laws by MTN should be a source of concern for investors.

"MTN is not good in my view in their dealing with the regulatory agencies.

"Each time they will violate our rules and when caught, they will deny it and later apologise, such actions mean a lot in terms of corporate behaviour.

"As an investment entity, it will be a good investment but investors need to 'shine their eyes,' when they deal with a company like MTN," he said.

Olatokunbo blamed the nation's laws and regulations as well as regulatory agencies for lack of focus and pro-activeness. He said the rules/regulations guiding the operations of the telecoms industry were long overdue for review, particularly on the number of years a company should operate in the country before being quoted.

According to him, any company that is 10 years in Nigeria with good profit should be mandated to list on the NSE.

For Mr Moses Igbrude, Publicity Secretary, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (PSAN), the listing of MTN's shares, like any new listing, would excite investors.

Igbrude said it showed that the market was deepening, expanding as well as a sign of acceptance, being a foreign company. "Let us hope that our assumption that MTN is a viable and profitable company is a reality when they eventually come to the market.

"When most big companies go public, one will be shocked and surprised to see bloated volume of shares with some of them declaring losses.

"I sincerely appeal to the regulators to carry out thorough due diligence before settling for MTN listing price," Igbrude said. Prof. Uche Uwaleke, Head of Banking and Finance Department, Nasarawa State University Keffi, described the planned listing of MTN's shares as a welcome development for the Nigerian capital market.

"One of the challenges the stock market is facing is that industry composition is concentrated in a few sectors. The listing of MTN will help dilute this over concentration.

"It will help to deepen the market, enhance its capitalisation and contribution to the nation's Gross Domestic Product as more Nigerians are given the opportunity to participate in the fortunes of the telecom company," Uwaleke said. He added that the listing would give a positive signal to both foreign and local investors who would see it as a sign that the investment climate in Nigeria was improving.

"The success of the listing will encourage other telecommunication companies such as Globacom, Etisalat and other multinational companies to consider approaching the stock exchange.

"This will be positive for the capital market and the economy in general," Uwaleke said. (NAN)

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