MTN Group has agreed to buy Internet provider Visafone Communications of Nigeria to expand in Africa’s biggest economy even as the South African company awaits a local court ruling on a record $3.9 billion fine in its biggest market.
The acquisition will ensure that “Nigerians experience a boost in the quality of broadband Internet services” and data speeds, MTN Nigeria Executive Amina Oyagbola said in an e-mailed statement on Friday, without disclosing terms. Visafone offers voice as well as online services in Nigeria, according to the statement.
MTN said Dec. 17 it will ask a Lagos court to rule on the fine, which was imposed by the Nigerian telecommunications regulator for failing to meet a deadline to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered subscribers. The initial fine of $5.2 billion was reduced by 25% earlier in December following talks with the regulator led by MTN Chairman Phuthuma Nhleko.
MTN shares have declined 34% since the fine was made public on Oct. 26, valuing the company at 232 billion rand ($14.5 billion).
Lagos-based Visafone is a wireless network provider founded in 2007 by Jim Ovia, a Nigerian businessman who also created Zenith Bank Plc.
MTN had about 62.5 million subscribers in Nigeria at the end of September, almost a quarter of the total of 233 million customers.