Wednesday, 06 April 2022 09:36

MTN shares drop nearly 8% after Nigerian communications watchdog barks.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

MTN Group on Wednesday (6 April) moved to extinguish yet another fire in Nigeria, which spooked investors leading to a big decline in the group's share price in Johannesburg.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) announced earlier this week that all operators are required to restrict outgoing calls for subscribers whose SIMs are not yet linked with their National Identity Number (NIN).

MTN Nigeria, the group’s subsidiary – having listed separately in Lagos in 2019 – subsequently received a formal directive from the NCC to implement a phased suspension of services to affected subscribers, placing them on ‘receive only’ status with effect from 4 April 2022.

The telecoms giant lost almost R15.00 a share on Tuesday (5 April), or 7.76% to R173.58 on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

In line with operating licence requirements, MTN Nigeria has complied with the directive and implemented the restrictions on only outgoing voice calls of affected subscribers. All other services remain available to all subscribers, including those that are yet to submit their NINs,” MTN said in a statement on Wednesday.

It said that MTN Nigeria supports the work being done by the Federal Government of Nigeria to build a reliable and sustainable National Identity Management system, which is a critical enabler that will deliver multiple benefits to the telecoms industry and Nigeria as a whole.

"It will aid national economic planning and enhance security, governance and service delivery at all levels."

The operator noted that MTN Nigeria has deployed more than 4,200 points of enrolment across the country to support the NIN enrolment drive.

"This network continues to be expanded to ensure that enrolment is within reach of all Nigerians. MTN Nigeria also continues to work with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to accelerate the bulk verification of NINs collected."

“MTN Nigeria has made good progress with around 47 million subscribers having submitted their NINs by 31 March 2022. This represents approximately 67% of MTN Nigeria’s subscriber base and 76% of service revenue for FY 2021.

"Outgoing voice revenue from the current subscribers who have not submitted a NIN amounts to about 9% of MTN Nigeria’s total FY 2021 service revenue on an annualised basis, "the group said.

For MTN Group, this would amount to approximately 3% of FY 2021 service revenue on an annualised basis, it pointed out.

"MTN Nigeria also continues to engage with the NCC and NIMC – including through relevant industry bodies – as it has done since December 2020, when the initial directive to link NINs to SIMs was made."

MTN Group and MTN Nigeria intend to host a call with investors on 8 April 2022 to update them on this directive.

Meanwhile MTN is working with advisers at JPMorgan Chase & Co on the planned separation of its financial technology business, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The carrier said last month it aims to complete a carveout of the business by the end of the first half before seeking funds from outside investors later in the year. Last year, Nedbank Group Ltd estimated the fintech arm could be worth about $6 billion.

MTN is studying a variety of potential deals, including bringing in partners for some of its businesses as well as possibly listing certain units in the future, to unlock value and pay down debt. The carrier is also exploring options for its data center business, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

The telecom carrier is separately working with FTI Consulting Inc to find ways to boost revenues from its wholesale business and roaming agreements across the markets where it operates, one of the people said.