Picture: AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI
Picture: AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

MTN Group is looking to raise as much as R60bn from an extended asset-sale plan, with stakes in a towers business and the carrier’s Nigerian unit among those earmarked for sale.

Africa’s biggest mobile phone company has generated about R14bn since implementing a strategy to offload non-essential businesses in March, and is ready to step up the process, MTN said in an e-mailed response to questions on Thursday.

IHS Holdings, the continent’s largest operator of wireless towers, is on the list and the Johannesburg-based company valued its stake in the firm at R23bn in June, a spokesperson said.

MTN is 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 $2bn (R29bn) 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 focusing investment on its main markets — including $1.6bn for Nigeria announced on Wednesday — and is “seriously investigating” the prospect of taking part in a planned privatisation of Ethiopia’s phone monopoly, according to the spokesperson.

IHS is reviving plans for an initial public offering, people with knowledge of the situation said in 2019, after scrapping a US share sale in 2018. The Mauritius-based company declined to comment.

MTN has sold minority stakes in two tower joint ventures for $523m, redeemed preference shares in Nigeria and offloaded e-commerce businesses such as booking site Travelstart since starting the sale programme in 2019.

Bloomberg