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MTN is talking up its mobile money business in hopes of a future IPO

MTN Group has big ambitions for its mobile money business and is presently considering publicly listing that side of the business in an initial public offering (IPO). While there’s no timeline yet for an IPO, MTN Group is valuing its mobile money business at $5 billion. 

It comes weeks after Airtel sold stakes in its standalone mobile money business to the TPG Group as well as Mastercard for a combined $300 million. That 11% stake will help Airtel deepen its offering across the 14 markets in which it operates. 

MTN is basing its valuation on Airtel’s. The company’s CEO, Ralph Mupita said, “with similar valuations to that of Airtel, our valuation would sit at 75 billion rand, or about $5 billion. No decision has been made as yet, but listing will be an option considered if that will be the best approach to unlock value.”

MTN Mobile Money (MoMo) has seen rapid growth across the 16 markets in which it operates. By the end of September 2020, nearly 42 million people were regularly transacting on MoMo, an increase of 4 million people from the first half of 2020. 

There is room for even more growth with the GSMA report for 2020 showing that of the 1.2 billion mobile money accounts globally, 548 million of those are in Sub Saharan Africa. There’s especially room for growth in Nigeria where financial services, although powered by banks, are still somewhat dominated by the big banks. 

With 60% of Nigeria’s 114 million adults unbanked, telcos have a natural advantage over banks in trying to reach the unbanked. The telcos use a simple model where users don’t need to install any apps or worry about any complex bank-like registrations. 

This USSD-led mobile money approach has been popular for years but all the signs are there that mobile banking is growing more complex. This is mostly because, while USSD is pretty easy to use, it has really poor security.

It is presumably why mobile networks are planning towards a mobile banking future that will be more sophisticated than allowing users to simply send and receive money. Wiza Jalakasi, a technology and financial services analyst, gives some brilliant insight into this in an article from 2019. 

In the end, it might feel like early days, but with telcos showing their hands and declaring their intentions, we may be poised for more growth of mobile money in the near future. 


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