MTN Nigeria, Thursday, listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and is said to be arranging local debt financing as it plans to sell shares to new investors through public offering.

Although a South African company, Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market where it has over 55 million users. Nigeria accounts for a third of the company’s annual core profit.

Of late however, the company has faced problems in the country. In December, MTN agreed to make a $53 million payment to resolve a dispute in Nigeria. The move ended a multi-billion-dollar dividend repatriation row, hitting its share prices in Johannesburg.

Reuters quoted MTN Group CFO, Ralph Mupita, to have said the listing was an important step towards increasing local ownership in MTN Nigeria and building the country’s equity capital markets. The company also said it was relying on local funding in naira to mitigate exchange rate volatility.

The company also said the Nigerian unit would raise debt, adding that the total level rose 44 per cent to N252 billion in the first quarter.

“This is just the beginning, we still intend to pursue a future public offer giving more Nigerians greater access to the MTN opportunity,” chief executive of MTN Nigeria, Ferdi Moolman said.

The Telecom giant decided to list its local company in Nigeria in 2016 after agreeing to pay a $1.7 billion fine to settle a SIM card dispute with the government. Earlier, the company said it planned to list in the first half of 2019.

Last week, the company finally disclosed that it would list 20.4 billion ordinary shares on the Nigerian stock market.

MTN said its capital expenditure in the first quarter, rose to N63 billion, the bulk of which went to upgrade its network, up from N18 billion same period last year. Service revenue grew 13.4 per cent to N282 billion in the first quarter, driven by a rise in voice and data income and the addition of 2.1 million mobile subscribers.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), a measure of operating profit, reached N150.4 billion in the three months to March 2019, up from N123 billion a year earlier, MTN said.

MTN said it targets a dividend pay-out ratio of at least 80 per cent of its net income in the medium term.