Interswitch Delays IPO Over Nigerian Dollar Supply Concerns

  • Investors wary of naira valuation, dollar shortage, CEO says
  • Company targets expansion into two East African countries

Interswitch Ltd., which processes payments for banks and owns a brand of debit cards in Nigeria, suspended plans to raise as much as $1 billion in an initial public offering as investors fret over further potential weakness in the naira and a shortage of foreign currency.

The company, which operates in five African countries, said last year it met with banks including Bank of America Corp., Barclays Plc and Standard Bank Group Ltd. about a potential 2016 share sale in Lagos and London. The IPO would have enabled London-based private equity group Helios Investment Partners LLP, a shareholder, to return some money to investors, Interswitch Chief Executive Officer Mitchell Elegbe said in a Dec. 16 interview.

“The macroeconomic situation in Nigeria is the determining factor’’ in delaying the plans, Elegbe, 45, said at the company’s offices in Lagos, the commercial hub. Potential investors are “jittery’’ about the naira exchange rate and whether they will be able to buy foreign-exchange to get their money out of the West African country, he said.

Nigeria imposed a peg on the naira in early 2015 to protect the currency and conserve reserves in response to the plunging price of oil. The move starved lenders of foreign exchange, and prevented companies from accessing enough dollars to import raw materials and repatriate profit. The naira has slumped 36 percent since the peg was ended six months ago, still more than 30 percent stronger than the black-market rate against the dollar.

A deal leading to a dual listing in London and Lagos could value Interswitch at more than $1 billion, people with knowledge of the matter said in February. While Interswitch will revisit the IPO plans, its focus now will be on expansion, targeting two East African countries to add to operations in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Gambia, Elegbe said, without giving details.

Interswitch has issued more than 15 million payment cards in Africa’s most-populous nation and has grown this year even as the country slumped into a recession, Elegbe said. Nigerians are increasingly keen to use electronic payments. “Electronic payment penetration is less than 10 percent in this country, so there’s still 90 percent to go after. We’re ahead of our budget for the year.’’

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