Kampala — MTN Group may list its Ugandan unit following government pressure on Africa’s biggest wireless carrier by subscribers to increase local ownership in the East African country.

Selling shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange would follow a listing in Ghana and one planned for Nigeria later this year — both agreed to by the Johannesburg-based company as part of deals with regulators.

The Uganda Communications Commission said in August that while listing was not a precondition for renewing a licence that expires in October, the government would prefer more Ugandans to be "part of the company", according to executive director Godfrey Mutabazi.

MTN Uganda is studying options for "localising" ownership and enabling as many citizens as possible to acquire shares, chair Charles Mbire said on Monday in an interview in the capital, Kampala.

Details on the stake and the listing timetable will be determined once a study on available options is complete, he said.

Talks about the licence renewal are "progressing well" and shareholders are hopeful because MTN has fulfilled roll-out obligations and is Uganda’s highest taxpayer, Mbire said.

The company, which has a market share of about 55%, is seeking to renew its licence for another 10 years, according to the regulator.

MTN’s planned Nigerian initial public offering has been thrown into doubt in recent weeks after the company was hit with more than $10bn in claims by local authorities.

The carrier has taken legal action to contest the allegations, which have wiped more than 30% off the share price.

In late August, MTN’s Ghanaian business raised 1.1-billion cedis (R3.4bn) via an initial public offering in that market. The mobile operator sold about a third of the shares it had made available, according to a document seen by Bloomberg.

The 1.5-billion shares started trading on the Ghana Stock Exchange on September 5.

MTN agreed to the Ghana initial public offering after being granted the right to use 4G spectrum. Even though MTN failed to sell all the shares, the sale was more than three times bigger than the previous biggest listing in Ghana, when Agricultural Development Bank raised 326-million cedis in December 2016.

Bloomberg with Staff Writer