PIC Raises Stake In MTN To 26%

The Public Investment Corp. has raised its stake in the MTN Group Ltd. twice in two days, taking advantage of a price that is close to a 10-year low amid the telecoms operator’s crisis in Nigeria.

Johannesburg-based MTN announced in a recent statement that the PIC’s shareholding is almost 26%. The previous day, Africa’s giant mobile carrier by sales had said that the stake had increased to about 24%.

Deon Botha, PIC’s head of corporate affairs declined to go into detail about his company’s rationale for raising its stake but did send out an email comment that stated that PIC believes that MTN has a strong set of competencies and assets.

MTN’s share price has gone down by 19% since Nigerian authorities in August accused the company of illegally transferring $8.1bn out of the country. The carrier is also in hot water for $2bn in back taxes in Nigeria, its biggest market. However, it seems that at least the first matter may be resolved soon, with Central Bank’s Governor Godwin Emefiele recently saying that the two sides are on “the verge” of reaching an amicable resolution.

The shares rose by 1.5% to a little under $6.00 valuing the company at R169bn ($12bn).

Ruhan du Plessis, an analyst at Avior Capital Markets in Cape Town, South Africa, said that there'd been positive rhetoric on a possible resolution in Nigeria and so that is probably what made the PIC comfortable enough to buy into MTN at these levels.

The PIC is Africa’s major money manager with trillions of rands under its management. The Pretoria-based company is state-owned and is responsible for South African government worker pension funds.

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