LAGOS (Reuters) – South African telecoms firm MTN has converted its Nigerian unit into a public company before its planned listing on the Nigerian bourse in the first half of the year.

MTN Nigeria said on Wednesday the conversion was a legal requirement to prepare for the listing and it was engaging with the Securities and Exchange Commission and Nigerian Stock Exchange.

“Our conversion to a Plc is a major step towards listing by introduction on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in the first half of 2019,” MTN Nigeria chief executive Ferdi Moolman said.

Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market, with 52.3 million users in 2017, and accounts for a third of the company’s annual core profit, but has proven problematic in recent years.

In December, MTN agreed to make a $53 million payment to resolve a dispute in Nigeria. The move ended a four-month multi-billion dollar dividend repatriation row that hammered its share price.

Moolman said last month he expected the listing on the Nigerian bourse to be “probably more towards April and May”.

The company expects to list the unit without raising money from investors immediately, and has said it would simplify its capital structure before the listing.

Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Potter