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Alleged Share Manipulation: MTN Nigeria Under Investigation

On the heels of its efforts to raise over $1 billion regulatory fine,  MTN Nigeria has disclosed that the firm is being investigated by the country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over a listing of shares on the stock exchange.

The Nigerian unit of MTN Group Limited that prides itself as Africa’s biggest wireless carrier, said in a statement published by Bloomberg on Saturday that it wasn’t accused of any wrongdoing and is cooperating with the investigation.

The South African company listed its shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange on May 16 to comply with terms of a $1.5 billion settlement in 2015 with the Nigerian Communications Commission over unregistered phone lines on its network.

Since the listing, the stock has jumped 41 percent, closing at 140 naira per share on Friday, giving the company a market capitalization of 2.8 trillion naira, second only to Dangote Cement Plc.

The Lagos-based bourse said on May 21 that MTN’s shares weren’t available for buyers and urged the company to provide more of the stock for investors.

MTN is also in court challenging a $2 billion bill for alleged back taxes.

THISDAY reports that operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) raided the head office of MTN Nigeria Communications Plc in Falomo, Lagos over the scandal rocking the company’s recent listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

Top management personnel of the company were said to have been interrogated by the operatives, who stormed the telco’s corporate headquarters at about 4pm.

It was gathered that the EFCC team had demanded for documents in connection with the share listing which were promptly provided to them.

The investors feared that the shares of MTN Nigeria have been manipulated to drive the price of the stock very high before any share offering through an IPO.

However, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, while speaking at the valedictory service organised for the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu in Abuja recently, said through the MTN’s listing on the NSE, the Commission had translated into action, an important function of the Commission, which is to promote local investment and ownership in the telecom sector.

“With MTN shares available in the capital market, Nigerians will buy shares and by purchasing the shares of MTN, they will be financially empowered and be socially transformed. We consider this a very important milestone in translating the function of the NCC into reality, as enshrined in the Nigerian Communications Act 2003,” Danbatta said.


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