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Frustration grows as retail, portfolio investors can’t buy MTN shares

...NSE remains coy

Babajide Okeowo

Frustrations are growing from retail and portfolio investors over their inability to lay hands on MTN shares as the stock gain a whopping 30% in just three days of trading on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

To address this frustration, the NSE released a press statement late on Monday to address the concern. According to the release, MTN Nigeria has not broken any of NSE’s rule by not making their shares public because this was a Listing by Introduction.

“In a Listing by Introduction, no shares have been offered for subscription by the company prior to listing. Thus, without any intervention, it is possible that there will be no shares available for trading on the listing date. Indeed, currently, no rule of The Exchange compels shareholders in a listed company to tender their shares for trading. Shareholders are at liberty to trade their shares at any time and price suitable to them.

Thus, in order to stimulate trading in the shares of companies that List by Introduction, the NSE’s practice is to urge the company to make shares available on the day of listing. In the case of MTN Nigeria, the NSE had requested the Company as part of the listing process to make shares available” the statement said.

NSE also addressed concerns raised in some quarters that only selected and limited stockbroking firms are currently trading in the shares while several other firms were excluded.

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“Since the listing of MTN Nigeria on Thursday, May 16, 2019, a total of 105,301,759 shares valued at N12,231,997,316 have traded in three (3) days. These trades were carried out by ten (10) Dealing Member Firms in 134 cross deals/negotiated deals. According to the Rulebook of The Exchange, when a Dealing Member or Authorised Clerk has an order to buy and an order to sell the same security at the same price, the Dealing Member or Authorized Clerk may “cross” those orders at a price at or within The Exchange’s best bid or offer.

A variant of this is the negotiated deal, which describes a situation where a cross deal is executed between two Dealing Member Firms at a price which may be within The Exchange’s best bid or offer or with the approval of The Exchange, outside the best bid or offer. Because cross deals involve clients of the same Dealing Member Firm on both sides of a trade, significant issues have been raised that Dealing Members who have not been involved in the cross deals have been unable to trade on behalf of their clients.

The Exchange is not unconcerned about this state of affairs. Indeed, Council members of The Exchange urged brokers to discuss with their clients about possible sales of shares” the statement said.

In other words, this indicates that despite the fact that MTN’s trades have been over N12.2 billion worth, most of the deals are between clients of the same stockbroking outfit. Basically, the buyer and seller of the shares all reside with the same stockbroker. In this case, the buyer and seller could be related parties. This also means clients in other stockbroking outfits don’t even stand a chance to bid for their own clients shutting them out of any fees they may have been able to earn. The exchange also suggests it is looking into these claims as they are valid.