MTN targets $4Bn with Nigeria Asset-Sale Plan

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…To diversify local shareholding, boost capex …Share price may fall as supply hits market

MTN Group Ltd. is looking to raise as much as 60 billion rand ($4 billion) from an extended asset-sale plan, with stakes in a major towers business and the carrier’s Nigerian unit among those earmarked for sale.

Africa’s biggest mobile-phone company has generated about 14 billion rand since kicking off a strategy to offload non-essential businesses in March, and is ready to step up the process, MTN said in an emailed response to questions on Thursday. IHS Holdings Ltd., the continent’s largest operator of wireless towers, is on the list and the Johannesburg-based company valued its stake in the firm at 23 billion rand in June, a spokeswoman said.

MTN is also looking to reduce majority ownership of its business in Nigeria, the carrier’s biggest and most profitable market, after the country’s attorney general dropped a claim for $2 billion in back taxes. About 14% of the Lagos-listed operation could be sold, MTN said, reducing the stake to about 65%.

MTN is raising money to pay down debt and simplify a portfolio of telecom businesses that spreads across Africa and the Middle East. The company is also focusing investment on its main markets — including $1.6 billion for Nigeria announced on Wednesday — and is “seriously investigating” the prospect of taking part in a planned privatization of Ethiopia’s phone monopoly, according to the spokeswoman.

MTN shares gained as much as 2% after the report of the asset sales was published, and traded 0.4% higher as of 2:55 p.m. in Johannesburg.

IHS is reviving plans for an initial public offering, people with knowledge of the situation said last year, after scrapping a U.S. share sale in 2018. The Mauritius-based company declined to comment.

MTN has sold minority stakes in two tower joint ventures for $523 million, redeemed preference shares in Nigeria and offloaded e-commerce businesses such as booking site Travelstart since starting the sale program last year.

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