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Airtel Africa lists in Nigeria and turns to Africa for growth

By Eromo Egbejule, in Lagos
Posted on Tuesday, 9 July 2019 23:08

The logo of telecommunications company Airtel is pictured on an umbrella and chairs set up by vendors in Abuja. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Just after its late June initial public offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange, Airtel Africa today was also officially listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

The teleco Airtel is looking to Africa to spur its growth, with its Indian operations grappling with debts at home and the drive to develop 5G networks there.

Second bites

The secondary listing of Airtel Africa, the second-largest operator on the continent after MTN, was initially billed for last week but was postponed.

Airtel has been worried about the market’s appetite for telecos in emerging markets. Last month, Airtel Africa’s shares plunged on the London exchange by about 16%. It had raised about $750m during that listing.

Big league

When complete, the value of the Nigerian free float listing will be N1.354trn ($3.8bn) – approximately half the size of that of its competitor, MTN Nigeria. This value makes it one of the top stocks on the NSE in terms of capitalisation – joining the league of Dangote Cement and MTN Nigeria – and bigger than the London one.

Airtel had announced that the listing was of 39,227,968 ordinary shares at N363 per share. They ended the day with a tidy rise, reaching N399.3. It was a boost for the Nigerian market, as worries mount about the country’s political go-slows and economic direction.

Airtel in Africa

Airtel Africa is the parent company of Airtel in 14 African countries, including Nigeria. Nigeria is Airtel’s biggest African market, and it held 26.3% of market share in May of this year, according to the latest data from the Nigerian Communications Commission. That puts it just behind Globacom (26.8%) and well behind South Africa’s MTN (37.4%).

Many African governments have been pushing telcos to list their shares on local bourses as a commitment to developing the local financial sectors. As a top player in Nigeria, Airtel has so far avoided the clashes with the authorities of its peer, MTN.

According to a statement released by the NSE, a special waiver was granted to Airtel after the telecom operator could not gather the required minimum of 300 shareholders, an important criterion for a company looking to list on the platform.

Why this is important: With multinationals like Airtel and MTN swelling the ranks of the NSE, more foreign entities could decide to follow suit and lead to a more robust stock market.

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