UPDATE 2-MTN Nigeria debuts in Lagos in $6.5 billion listing

* Shares climb 10% in initial trading

* $2 bln Nigeria tax dispute holds back further share sales

* Nigeria produces a third of S.African parent’s profit (Recasts)

By Nneka Chile and Libby George

LAGOS, May 16 (Reuters) – MTN Nigeria, owned by South Africa’s MTN Group, listed in Lagos on Thursday in a 2 trillion naira ($6.54 billion) flotation turning the telecoms company into the exchange’s second-largest stock by market value.

MTN Nigeria’s shares climbed 10 percent from their listing price of 90 naira after the float went live.

The company, which had 52.3 million users in Nigeria as of 2017, has had fraught relations with the Nigerian authorities, including disputes over SIM cards and tax payments.

The listing follows MTN Group’s agreement with Nigerian regulators to settle most of those long-running disputes.

However, the company is still in the middle of a $2 billion tax row with Nigeria’s attorney general, which the company says is delaying a further sale of shares and a public offering.

Once that matter is resolved, MTN will sell more shares to the public, and seek to increase local ownership of MTN Nigeria to 35% from the current roughly 20%, its finance chief told investors in Lagos earlier on Thursday, according to two of those investors.

Just before the flotation, parent MTN Group owned 78.8% of the Nigerian business. MTN Nigeria accounts for a third of the Johannesburg parent’s core profit.

$1 = 305.9000 naira
Reporting by Nneka Chile and Libby George in Lagos and
Chijioke Ohuocha in Abuja; writing by Paul Carsten; editing by
Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Jane Merriman


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