Nigeria’s largest telecommunications company, MTN Nigeria invested a whopping N121.5 billion in bonds, treasury bills and foreign currency deposits in 2020. This compares to just N9 billion in 2019 suggesting the GSM giant had challenges deploying the capital raised during the year.
MTN raised N143.96 billion in several syndicated facilities during the year which was to be utilized for its network expansion plans. However, the Covid-19 induced lockdowns affected capex activities forcing most companies to freeze spending on anything that is capital intensive. Effective Interest Rates for most of the loans obtained by MTN range between 3.5% and N5.8% per annum.
From the breakdown seen by Nairametrics, MTN invested N93 billion in naira denominated fixed deposits, equivalent of N19 billion in US dollar deposits and another N34.8 billion in treasury bills. The total amount invested earned MTN about N15.84 billion in income which it used to offset its finance cost of over N129 billion.
Why it matters
Interest rates for risk-free government securities fell drastically in 2020 as investment outlets dried up locally. This triggered a massive influx of money into the stock market helping it to close above 50%, one of the best performing in the world last year.
- For companies like MTN with a significant cash hoard, treasury operations are a significant part of the activities of its finance department.
- The investments in risk-free treasury bills despite the negative real return (when interest rate is adjusted for inflation) suggest corporates will rather fix their money in treasury bills than leave it idle in commercial banks.
- It also suggests corporates like MTN are more favourably disposed to lending to the government despite Nigeria’s ballooning public debt and its attendant risk to its credit ratings.
- Despite the investments, MTN still closed the year with about N275 billion cash in its balance sheet.