There were indications that the Airtel Nigeria may have opened discussion with the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Nigerian Stock Exchange on the listing of its stock on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
A meeting held at the headquarters of the Nigerian Communications Commission in Abuja on Wednesday had the henchmen from the three organisations in attendance.
These included the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Bharti Airtel Africa, Raghunath Mandava; Managing Director, Airtel Nigeria, Segun Ogunsanya; Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Stock Exchange, Mr Oscar Onyema; and the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta.
It was also learnt that two top officials of Stanbic IBTC attended the meeting. The Security and Exchange Commission was also represented at the meeting. Stanbic IBTC Holdings Limited is registered with SEC as an Issuing House and an underwriter. It provides investment banking services to corporate clients.
Our correspondent learnt that Airtel could be pursuing listing in the Nigeria Stock Exchange in response to one of its major competitors in the Nigerian market, MTN Nigeria, which had indicated that it would pursue listing in the market by introduction within the first half of the year.
There is also a bill that seeks to compel operators in the Nigeria telecommunications market to list in the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
Experts see listing as a means by which telecommunications operators can pursue expansion, share their risks with Nigerian investors, dilute ownership and use the proceeds to invest in other markets or sectors.
Briefing the press before entering a closed session with NSE, Airtel, Stanbic IBTC and SEC executives, Danbatta told journalists that the regulatory agency was happy with the expansion programme of Airtel as well as the broadband penetration occasioned by Airtel and other operators.
He said, “It is good to see Airtel providing services, especially 4G services. It is good to hear the level of expansion because we are seeing remarkable improvement in broadband penetration.
“The figures are increasingly going up. We are at about 33 per cent now. This we can attribute to very ambitious expansion of network operators like Airtel in places like Lagos, Kano, Rivers, Ibadan and Abuja. This lends credence to figures we are seeing from broadband penetration.
“We are seeing increase in broadband subscription, especially to services provided by Airtel. It is good for Nigerians to hear that Airtel is helping us to hit the broadband penetration target. All parameters are steadily growing courtesy of expansion programme of 4G operators in the country, especially Airtel.”
Mandava, the Airtel Africa boss, described Nigeria as the fastest growing market and also the biggest market the company has in Africa.
He said, “It (Nigeria) is a critical market for us as we expand broadband penetration. We are impressed about the way Nigerian telecom market is growing. This is the fastest growing market in Africa.
“We are committed to very heavy investment and to help digitise the country. We are here to thank them for their support and to discuss about future broadband.”
The NSE boss was, however, shielded from making any comment.