SEC: We Didn’t Invite EFCC into MTN Nigeria’s Listing Probe

3

• Allays fears of investors Telco’s share price falls further

Obinna Chima and
Goddy Egene

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) yesterday said it did not invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) into its ongoing investigation of the process that led to the listing of MTN Nigeria Communications Plc’s shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

A top official of the Commission, who did not want to be named, disclosed this in a telephone chat with THISDAY, yesterday, insisting that SEC has the capacity and wherewithal to fully investigate the matter, adding that the issue must be handled with caution and due process in view of the global implications for local shareholders and foreign investors.

“Nigerian Stock Exchange is a global market so we must follow global best practices in all we do so as not to scare investors,” the regulator said.

The SEC official said they had to speak out based on media reports that the EFCC was involved in the matter and the negative implication such might have on the market, added: “We (SEC) are investigating the matter thoroughly. We are going through all the transactions, each and every crossing, and would base our findings on the facts and the law.

“If there is any infraction(s), the matter would be directed to the Investment and Securities Tribunal (IST) which is a superior court under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Nigeria: we will prosecute whoever is found wanting or apply the necessary sanction if such a case is established by the facts.”

“So, this is not a law enforcement or police issue , that is why we never invited the EFCC. The IST is like a court of coordinate jurisdiction and so we couldn’t have invited the EFCC. SEC has the competence and capability to handle this under the law.

“So, we are allaying the fears of global investors that there is no cause for alarm. Everyone should calm down and allow the market function as it should.”

THISDAY had reported that SEC had launched a probe into the process that led to the listing of MTN Nigeria on the NSE, even though the exchange had defended the telco.

But the EFCC at the weekend moved into MTN’s office and quizzed top officials of the telecoms company after demanding vital documents, regarding the listing process on the exchange.

But in a statement signed by its company Secretary, Uto Ukpanah, MTN had said it was never accused of any wrongdoing by the EFCC.

According to the statement, “MTN Nigeria Communications Plc (MTN Nigeria) received a letter on May 23, 2019 from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) requesting information and documentation related to the listing of our shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). MTN Nigeria has not been accused of any wrongdoing by the EFCC.

“We wish to reiterate that we received all regulatory approvals required to list our shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, as publicly confirmed by the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

“As a law-abiding and responsible corporate citizen, we are cooperating fully with the authorities. We are committed to good governance and to abiding by the extant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

The unprecedented rise in the shares of MTN shortly after listing was alleged to be a manipulation aimed at driving the price of the stock high before any share offering through an Initial Public Offering (IPO).

THISDAY had reported that investors on the NSE and stakeholders waiting to purchase MTN shares through an initial public offering might do so at a very high premium whenever the telco decides to float the IPO. This was because of the free float accommodation and some other waivers MTN Nigeria was granted by the capital market regulators to pave the way for its listing.

Meanwhile, the shares of MTN Nigeria Communications Plc fell further yesterday as investors reduced demand following reports of the ongoing probe.

The stock had appreciated by 65 per cent within one week after its listing from N90 to N149. However, it began to depreciate last Friday, falling to N140.

But when trading resumed yesterday, MTN shares declined further by N10.00 or 7.14 per cent to N130.00 per share. Investors traded 10.217 million shares.