Nigerian Phone Maker Buys MTI Stake to Expand in Rural Broadband

Nigerian mobile-phone manufacturer Tingo Mobile agreed to buy a majority stake in Mass Telecom Innovation Nigeria Plc for about 4 billion naira ($25 million) to develop rural broadband in Africa’s most populous country.

Tingo will acquire 51 percent of cable-network operator MTI, Chief Executive Officer Dozy Mmobuozi said in an interview yesterday in Lagos, the commercial capital. The company will be rebranded and remain listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, he said. Phone calls to numbers on MTI’s website didn’t connect.

“We’re using the acquisition to reach out to the mass market,” Mmobuozi said. Lagos-based MTI’s “assets from base stations to license and goodwill and other things, will help penetrate rural Nigeria.”

Telecommunications companies including China’s Huawei Technologies Co. and Johannesburg-based MTN Group Ltd. are expanding in Nigeria to tap a growing market for mobile and data usage. Africa’s biggest economy had 169 million mobile-phone subscriptions as of March for a population of about 170 million, the Nigerian Communications Commission said on its website.

With many users owning more than one phone, subscriber numbers are expected to grow to more than 200 million in 2017, according to London-based research company Informa Telecoms & Media.

MTI’s shares were untraded at 0.50 naira as of 12:48 p.m. in Lagos. Nwando Ajene, a spokeswoman for the Nigerian Stock Exchange, doesn’t have any information about the proposed acquisition, she said by e-mail.

Three Smartphones

Tingo said yesterday it will start selling three smartphones in Nigeria, the first time its devices will be made available to the public rather than to government or corporate customers. The Tingo T5, T500 and T561 models cost 10,000 naira to 18,000 naira and are made locally, Mmobuozi said. The Abuja-based company also has operations in Kenya and Malaysia.

Tingo is making GPS tracking systems and mobile point-of-sale devices that can be attached to its phones as it looks to expand its Internet-based services business. New products include a chat application that localizes emoticons, using Nigerian cultural references.

“In the next two months, we must have hit a 10 million subscriber base for our Tingo Chat app,” Mmobuozi said.

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