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Telecom giant MTN lists shares on Nigeria's stock exchange

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Lagos (AFP)

Africa's largest mobile phone operator, MTN, listed shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) on Thursday in a $6 billion flotation reflecting its increasing presence in the Nigerian market, its largest.

MTN bosses said the move showed their confidence in Nigeria's economy, following years of difficulty with the government.

"We live and we work in Nigeria, now we are also listed in Nigeria," said Ferdi Moolman, chief executive of MTN Nigeria, adding the company was "proud to contribute to the growth of the NSE".

South African-owned MTN says it has about half the market by revenue in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation.

Jude Chiemeka, NSE head of trading called the flotation a "landmark event".

The company also sees huge possibilities in mobile money, a transfer feature via mobile phones popular in several countries across the continent but that has yet to take off in Nigeria.

"We're looking at mobile money, which has huge potential, not only for now but for the future," Moolman told reporters in Lagos. "We estimate there are up to 50 million Nigerians with no access to bank accounts."

The flotation comes after years of difficulty in Nigeria, with MTN battling mammoth fines by the country's regulators.

In December 2018, MTN agreed to pay $53 million to resolve a row with Nigeria's telecoms regulator (NCC), after being accused of illegally repatriating $8.13 billion to South Africa.

The decision to impose fines shocked MTN and its foreign investors, with four commercial banks involved in the transfer also fined.

The sanction was the latest in a series of fines to hit MTN since it began operations in Nigeria 17 years ago.

In 2015 it was fined $5.2 billion in 2015 for failing to disconnect unregistered SIM cards on its network.

The fine was later reduced to $1.7 billion after negotiations with the Nigerian government.

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