MTN Said to Start Purchase of Nigeria Wireless Operator Visafone

MTN Group Ltd. has started the process of buying closely held Visafone Communications Ltd. of Nigeria, as it seeks to expand in its largest market, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Lagos-based Visafone is a wireless network provider founded in 2007 by Jim Ovia, a Nigerian businessman who also created Zenith Bank Plc. The people asked not to be identified because the deal has yet to be announced. They didn’t give the value of the transaction.

MTN, Africa’s biggest mobile phone company, has been exploring acquisitions as it seeks to boost revenue from data outside South Africa, where Vodacom Group Ltd. has more subscribers.

Johannesburg-based MTN had 59.9 million subscribers in Nigeria at the end of 2014, more than a quarter of its 223 million total across 22 countries. Visafone had about 2.2 million customers as of December, according to data compiled by the Nigerian Communications Commission.

“We will send a holding statement at the appropriate time,” Funmilayo Onajide, a spokeswoman for MTN’s Nigerian unit in Lagos, said in a text message on Thursday. Newsverge, a Nigerian news website, earlier reported the deal.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE