No longer rumour, it has been confirmed that MTN plans to list its Nigerian operations on the floor of Nigeria Stock Exchange come 2017. According to MTN Nigeria’s Public Relations and Protocol Manager, Mr. Funso Aina:
The Board of Directors has resolved to proceed with preparations for a listing of MTN Nigeria on the NSE as soon as commercially and legally possible, and has established a management task team with the responsibility to guide the company towards a listing,
He went further;
At present, MTN Nigeria is targeting that the listing takes place during 2017, subject to suitable market conditions.
Though this as with all public offerings, will enable the company access more funds to continue the expansion and provision of its world class services, the news from other quarters indicate that the development is in part a fulfillment of the NCCs laid down conditions for lessening the record fine it imposed on the network last year. That record $5.2b fine was handed MTN for not disconnecting its unregistered subscribers.
The rationale thus is that being a publicly traded company will make the company more pro-active in executing similar future directives. Having said this though, there are no official averments to this claim.
In fact an industry stakeholder attendant at the meeting in June where the agreement was reached to cut MTNs initial fine from $5.2b to N330b insisted that there was no shenanigans or forced mandate on MTN to embark on the drive.
To support this, whilst veering off at a slightly different angle on the issue, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) stipulated that though the listing was part of a settlement arrangement with the Federal Government on the N1.4t fine imposed on the company for contravening the commission’s guidelines, it nevertheless insisted that MTNs decision to trade on the NSE was taken solely by the company.
In addition, Mr Ruben Moka Head of Public Relations Unit of the NCC noted that there had been of recent appeal by Nigerians and industry shareholders for telecommunication companies in the country to list their shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
In as much as this is true, and although no country where MTN operates can boast of an operating unit (as against a holding company) which is listed on that countries local stock market, this development has been variously welcomed and seen by many as a sign of MTNs commitment to extending the dividends of its success to the general public. Others continue to insist however that it is but a fine-lessening maneuver. Whatever the case, one thing is for sure-MTNs willingness to toe this path can be seen as a further sign of their undertaking to not only be a law abiding company but indeed a socially responsible one.
In the meantime, MTN recently rolled out its LTE (Long Term Evolution) service simultaneously across a plethora of Nigerian cities. This 4G network will bring advanced efficiency to data dependent services whilst opening vistas to a range of new ones. And with the trend in communication and sharing being increasingly online and data driven, you can say that once again, MTN having deduced where the market is headed has once again strategically positioned itself to make a killing when that chicken comes home to roost.
In fact competition will definitely toughen, whilst some networks may actually shout murder. And yet what gives- most consumers- Nigerians in particular will be smiling all the way to the ‘net. And that in itself may be just enough to stop NCC or the government from taking any strong measure against MTN for perceived undue advantages. Afterall, the corporate sky is big enough for all birds to soar. All that is needed is ability and commitment-and MTN has a lot of it.
Indeed, it may not be far-fetched to say that, despite its massive investment drive, by the end of 2018 bar re-financing and other financial engagements, MTN will surely have begun to enjoy healthy rates of return once again on its business.