(Adds quote, details, comment on FX)
By Chijioke Ohuocha
LAGOS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s stock exchange (NSE) is working “very closely” with South African cell operator MTN on a listing of its shares in the country this year, the head of the bourse said on Thursday.
“The pressure on MTN has never been higher to list,” NSE Chief Executive Oscar Onyema told a business conference. “There’s a project team working with them.”
Africa’s biggest mobile phone operator, has said it aims to list its Nigerian unit on the local bourse during 2017, subject to market conditions.
MTN is the largest mobile phone company in Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy, and accounts for a third of MTN’s revenue.
Last June the telecoms firm said it would list after agreeing to pay a reduced fine of $1.7 billion in a settlement with the Nigerian government over unregistered SIM cards.
A listing would see it have to abide by stock exchange rules on disclosure and corporate governance.
Onyema said he expected MTN’s listing this year to drive the IPO market which has virtually dried up. He also said local airline Med-View would list its shares on January 30.
MTN has appointed Stanbic IBTC Capital, Standard Bank of South Africa and Standard Advisory London, and Citigroup Global Markets, as joint transaction advisors and global coordinators, with Stanbic acting as lead issuer.
Foreign inflows into Nigeria’s stock market fell sharply last year, Onyema said, citing a loss of confidence in the country’s exchange rate regime. He said current currency reforms will determine market outlook this year.
Nigerian stocks lost 6.2 percent last year reflecting an economic crisis in Africa’s biggest economy, caused by low oil prices. In dollar terms stocks fell 40 percent as the local currency weakened sharply.
The naira lost a third of its official value against the dollar in 2016 after the central bank scrapped its currency peg in a bid to alleviate dollar shortages.
Onyema said the bourse will fast-track the listing of exchange traded derivatives this year to help investors manage risk, noting that it has created a counterparty clearing house to support the process. (Editing by Ulf Laessing and Alexandra Hudson)