Last week’s completion of the conversion from private company to a public company (Plc) by MTN Nigeria, has been described as a major leap that will put an end to the long-awaiting plans of the telecoms company to list on the NSE, writes Emma Okonji
Before now, hopes were high for would-be shareholders of MTN Nigeria, who were interested in investing in the shares of MTN Nigeria by the time the telecoms company makes itself available for listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), and becomes MTN Nigeria Communications Plc.
Their hopes kept rising and they were looking forward to a day when MTN Nigeria will announce its readiness to list on NSE, to enable them seize the investment opportunity to invest in MTN Nigeria shares.
The hopes were however rekindled last week, when MTN Nigeria announced that it has completed its conversion from a private company to a public company (Plc), thus making the telecoms company to become MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, which they considered as a major step taken by the telecoms giant towards listing on the NSE.
The former MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, which last week became MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, following its conversion from a private company to a public company, had long made its intention known to the Nigerian populace that it was interested and willing to list on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, with initial promises from its management team and its parent company, MTN South Africa. Since the telecoms company made the initial promise to list on NSE, Nigerians have been looking forward to that day to enable them invest in its shares and become shareholders of a multinational telecoms company that had since its inception of rollout of its commercial services in 2001, maintained the position of the largest telecoms operator in Nigeria, with a current subscriber base of over 65 million and market share of 37.83 per cent.
The latest of MTN Nigeria’s many promises to list on NSE before last week’s announcement on the completion of its conversion initiative, was the affirmation by MTN Nigeria CEO, Ferdi Moolman, who reiterated plan by the telco to list on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) before the end of third quarter of this year.
According to Moolman, save for the disagreement MTN Nigeria had with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last year, the company would have gone ahead with its listing plan.
He explained: “There was a lot of work that we did on the listing and our target was to list in 2018. We are a private company at the moment and we need to change to a public company before we can list.
“We need to send our directors for training to comply with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Nigerian Stock Exchange requirements to be able to list and a lot of work went on at the backend on the listing. Then, the CBN issue happened.
This was sequel to the assurance given by the President and Chief Executive Officer of MTN Group, Mr. Rob Shuter, in February this year, when he said MTN Nigeria would be listing on the NSE by the first half of this year, by way of introduction.
“We have decided though to pursue the listing by means of a listing by introduction. It is phase one,” Shuter said.
He indicated that the move would enable the company to get listed easily, adding that findings showed that the free float in the Nigerian market would be about 35 per cent.
Transcript of the call revealed that after the phase one, which would be completed by the first half of 2019, the shares would be open to Nigerian investors as part of the second phase of the listing.
“It means that we will list the company in the initial phases without any public offer or sell-down or initial public offering. I think this will enable us to get the company listed whilst the market still digests the implications of what has happened over the last few months,” Shuter said.
He added, “We will in phase two be doing a project to increase the Nigerian participation in MTN Nigeria, targeting more a free float of around 35 per cent than the free float we have today which is around 20 per cent. So, we aim to conclude at least the listing by introduction in the first half of 2019, pretty much as soon as we can, and then subject to market conditions, appetite and demand, we would, in phase two, do the sell-down,” Shuter added.
Last Week’s Announcement
MTN Nigeria, last week further raised the hope of Nigerians, when it announced that it has completed its conversion from a private company to a public company (Plc), thus making the telecoms company to become MTN Nigeria Communications Plc.
According to MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, the conversion to a Plc remained a legal requirement and key milestone in the preparatory process for its listing by introduction on The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
MTN’s intended listing on NSE will create a new telecoms asset class for investors and provide a wider group of Nigerians with a chance to participate in the MTN investment opportunity.
Speaking on the announcement, Moolman said: “Our conversion to a Plc is a major step towards listing by introduction on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in the first half of 2019. It is a reaffirmation of our long-term commitment to expanding investment opportunities for Nigerians, in addition to providing everyday services to them. We look forward to continuing our engagement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and NSE to take forward the listing process.”
Some subscribers to MTN Nigeria who reacted to last week’s announcement on the conversion exercise, hailed the telecoms company, describing the action as a major leap towards listing on NSE. They however called on MTN Nigeria to fast-track all processes leading to the listing.
A Lagos-based businessman, who identified himself as Chief Jude Okoroafor, told THISDAY that Nigerians were eager to invest in MTN Nigeria, and advised its management to facilitate all processes leading to the listing, to enable Nigerians invest in MTN Nigeria.
Okoroafor however expressed his worries over the delay in listing, explaining that most Nigerians are getting tired of the continuous promises of MTN Nigeria to list on the NSE, without actualising it. He advised that the July date for the planned commencement of the phase listing, should be realistic to keep hope alive.
Pleased with the conversion from a private company to a public company (Plc), the President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Olusola Teniola, told THISDAY that the move was a welcome development in the Nigerian telecoms industry, since it would pave the way for listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. According to him, it would help the company to grow its capital expenditure (CAPEX) base and have enough money for its 4G rollout.
“The telecoms industry is proud with this development and we will support MTN Nigeria Communications Plc in its genuine plan for listing on the NSE. It will help the telecoms company to raise more money and contribute more to the industry in terms of development, because people will be interested to invest in the telecoms company. The telecoms industry alone contributes over N450 billion yearly to government in terms of taxes and this will be an opportunity for MTN Nigeria Communications Plc to contribute more to the Nigerian government and to the telecoms industry,” Teniola said.
Responding to question on how the planned listing will help the telecoms company manage its current challenges with the federal government, Teniola said: “It is on global record that any company that lists on the stock exchange, has higher chances of becoming more responsible and more transparent in its dealings with government and the public, because it will automatically come under public scrutiny as soon as it gets listed on the stock exchange.” According to him, with the planned listing, MTN Nigeria Communications Plc will have to raise its game and comply with corporate governance rules and act always in a manner that will be seen by the public as transparent.
Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, who also spoke on the latest conversion of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited to MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, commended the efforts of the telecoms company for making preparations towards listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. According to him, the move would make MTN Nigeria Communications Plc to become publicly quoted and its approach to business would change, thus giving Nigerians the opportunity to become part owners of the telecoms company.
Looking at the challenges associated with listing on the stock exchange, the Founder, CWG Plc and ALA Academy for Entrepreneurial Studies, Mr. Austin Okere, said listing on the stock exchange for business expansion remained a good business idea, but that there was need to consider the peculiar nature of the business before attempting to list on the stock exchange.
“CWG Plc, which I founded some years ago, for instance, listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, but companies must be careful in listing on the stock exchange to raise ‘Series A’ or ‘Series B’ funding for their business, because people that want to invest in the business at the stock exchange, want their investments to yield results three times within a space of five years, and their expectations are high.
Again businesses must consider the stability of exchange rate before listing. If exchange rate is fluctuating and probably rise to a certain level at some points in time, it becomes an issue to pay back loans or dividend at high exchange rate, whereas the exchange rate was relatively low when the business was listed.
So the best way to successfully run a business is to avoid money that you do not really need to run the business, to avoid a situation, where investors will take over the business and the owner of the business becomes a management staff in his or her own business,” Okere said.
Okere, who currently teaches entrepreneurial studies at the Columbia Business School in the United States of America, said: “Before going to list on the stock exchange, it is advisable to first test the business plan, understand the unique value the business is providing, as well as understand the type of partners needed to provide the value into the customer segment.
There is also the need to understand how to secure customers in a business and how to grow and keep the customers.
The delivery channels of the business must be clear and understanding of the business turnover, are all key factors that must be considered before listing on the stock exchange.”
In March this year, MTN announced its earnings for the 2018 financial year, recording growth above inflation in full service revenue of 17.2 per cent and the addition of nearly six million new subscribers to the network.
The company announced earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of N453.1 billion and expanded EBITDA margins to 43.6 per cent, excluding the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) resolution amount.
The company added 4.5 million active data customers during the year, delivering data revenue growth of 39.3 per cent and expanding to 18.7 million, the number of people that it connects to the possibilities that the internet provides.
Nigeria is one of the largest markets within MTN’s portfolio and central to its growth strategy.
The upcoming listing is a key milestone for the MTN group and is part of its commitment to localisation in the markets in which it operates, the telecoms company said.