MTN Group Ltd. is exploring a sale of shares in African online retailer Jumia and values the company at as much as $1 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.
Africa’s largest wireless carrier is considering an initial public offering of the Amazon.com Inc.-style business on the Nasdaq or New York Stock Exchange, said the people, who asked not to be named as the information isn’t public. Johannesburg-based MTN is the biggest shareholder in Jumia with a 40 percent stake, and smaller investors including German startup backer Rocket Internet SE are also open to selling stock, they said.
Another option under consideration is a private sale of shares to new investors, according to the people. Jumia currently has an estimated enterprise value of about $1 billion, they said, and has grown sales by between 70 percent and 90 percent annually since its inception in 2012.
MTN “currently has no plans to dispose of its investment in Jumia in the short term,” a spokeswoman said in emailed comments Thursday. Jumia and Rocket declined to comment.
Jumia was set up by French entrepreneurs Sacha Poignonnec and Jeremy Hodara in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, to take advantage of rising internet use in Africa and a lack of availability of consumer-goods items such as designer watches and sunglasses. It has grown to have e-commerce operations in 14 African countries, and has added platforms for online hotel bookings and food delivery.
A successful listing could help MTN reduce debt, which increased to 69.8 billion rand ($4.8 billion) as of the end of June, compared with 57.1 billion rand six months earlier. The rising liabilities contributed to a share-price slump when the carrier reported half-year earnings last week. The stock has fallen 27 percent this year, close to eight-year lows, valuing the company at 190 billion rand.
MTN operates in 21 countries across Africa and the Middle East. Nigeria is its biggest market with about 55 million customers.
Only about a third of Africa’s 1.2 billion people have access to the internet, providing plenty of potential growth for Jumia as a listed company, said one of the people.
Other Jumia shareholders include Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Millicom International Cellular SA and Orange SA.