Africa biggest by sales, MTN Group Ltd. has been given more broadband spectrum in Nigeria related to its acquisition of Visafone Communications Ltd four years ago. following a lengthy regulatory battle.
The Nigerian Communications Commission approved the transfer of 800-megahertz spectrum following a public inquiry into the boost the move would give to MTN’s market-leading position in the country. MTN bought Visafone from Jim Ovia, the former chief executive of Zenith Bank Plc, four years ago.
The decision will enable Johannesburg-based MTN to extend its network reach in Africa’s most populous country, potentially to rural and unconnected areas, according to Olusola Teniola, President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria.
“MTN is a dominant player in the voice segment and obviously they would like to ensure that they hold a leadership position in the data space,” Teniola said by phone. “Any operator that has the kind of spectrum that MTN holds is in a good position to lead the market.”
Getting the better of an NCC ruling will come as welcome boost to MTN, which has long been the subject of regulator and government censure in Nigeria. In 2015, the NCC fined the carrier more than $5 billion for missing a deadline to disconnect subscribers without proper registrations, a crisis from which the share price has never recovered.
The penalty was eventually settled for about $1 billion plus a pledge to sell shares on the local stock market, which is slated for later this year.