Ugandan tycoon Charles Mbire, the chairman of MTN’s operations in the East African country, is in high spirits as the telecom giant finalizes plans to list on the Ugandan Stock Exchange.
MTN Uganda announced earlier this week that it has received regulatory approvals to list 20 percent of its shareholding on the Kampala bourse, thereby making its shares available to retail investors from Kenya and other East African countries for the first time.
“The intention to float announcement is a major step towards delivering on our plan to list on the USE,” Mbire said in a press statement announcing the intention to list. “It is a reaffirmation of our long-term commitment to expand investment opportunities for Ugandans and we look forward to continuing our engagement with the CMA and USE to take forward the IPO and the listing.”
MTN’s listing on the Ugandan Stock Exchange is a victory for Mbire, who has been working behind the scenes to improve relations between the Ugandan government and the mobile telecom company. Relations between the government and the company have been tested over the past few years by a string of setbacks, including a delayed renewal of its operating license, the expulsions of its expatriate executives and a security raid on the company’s data center.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has often accused MTN of understating its revenues. In 2019, Uganda deported MTN Uganda CEO Wim Vanhelleputte less than a month after he assumed his position on accusations of compromising national security. There has also been resentment from the government toward the telecom over the paucity of Ugandans in top positions at the company.
When MTN’s 20-year license expired in October 2018, the firm applied for a 10-year extension and the Uganda Communications Commission granted it an interim renewal lasting 60 days pending resolution of a number of unspecified issues before a final license could be issued.
Following a prolonged negotiation with the government that dragged on for nearly two years, MTN Uganda finally reached an agreement to pay the Uganda Communications Commission $100 million for a 12-year license in Uganda valid from July 1, 2020.
An IPO was also one of the conditions for the renewal of the license.
MTN Uganda is the country’s largest telecom firm, with a subscriber base of 11 million.
The company contributed about 5 percent ($570 million) of the total revenue ($11 billionaire) of the MTN Group in 2020. MTN Uganda has been operating in Uganda since 1998 when it acquired a 20-year license. Mbire, a prominent businessman with interests in infrastructure, banking, agriculture and energy, is the company’s chairman and one of its largest shareholders.