MTN's head office in Johannesburg. Picture: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
MTN's head office in Johannesburg. Picture: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK

MTN Group agreed to buy internet provider Visafone Communications of Nigeria to expand in Africa’s biggest economy even as the South African company awaits a local court ruling on a record $3.9bn fine in its biggest market.

The acquisition will ensure that "Nigerians experience a boost in the quality of broadband internet services" and data speeds, MTN Nigeria executive Amina Oyagbola said on Friday without disclosing terms.

MTN said in a statement that Visafone offered voice and online services in Nigeria.

MTN said on December 17 it would ask a Lagos court to rule on the fine, which was imposed by the Nigerian telecommunications regulator for failing to meet a deadline to disconnect 5.1-million unregistered subscribers. The initial fine of $5.2bn was reduced by 25% earlier in December following talks with the regulator led by MTN chairman Phuthuma Nhleko.

MTN shares have declined 34% since the fine was made public on October 26, valuing the company at R232bn. At 11.01am the stock was up 0.6% at R127.01.

Lagos-based Visafone is a wireless network provider founded in 2007 by Jim Ovia, a Nigerian businessman who also created Zenith Bank.

MTN had about 62.5-million subscribers in Nigeria at the end of September, almost a quarter of the total of 233-million customers.