The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission suspended trading of shares belonging to Tingo Group, a Nasdaq-listed company that claims a wide range of services in agriculture, and financial technology across Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
The agency cited “questions and concerns regarding the adequacy and accuracy of publicly available information in the marketplace concerning Tingo Group” for its action, in a statement on Nov. 13. A separate notice suspended trading in shares of Agri-Fintech Holdings, an entity connected to the Tingo brand, also for “lack of adequate and accurate information.”
The SEC said the temporary suspension will end on Nov. 28, cautioning brokers and anyone interested in Tingo to “carefully consider” the action it has taken as well as “any information subsequently issued by the company.”
Tingo was founded by Nigerian businessman Odogwu ‘Dozy’ Mmobuosi. The company seemed to pop out of nowhere when, in February 2022, Bloomberg reported that the company was looking to raise $500 million and was already valued at $6.3 billion. Its existence and operations as a supposed provider of fintech services to 12 million rural farmers was news to many experienced African tech founders and investors.
In June, a damning report by short-seller Hindenburg Research challenged Tingo’s claims, dubbing it “an obvious scam” whose numbers were made up. Tingo had said it “refuted all” of Hindenburg’s allegations.
Mmobuosi, the 45-year-old chief executive, has been the subject of attention over the past year for his interest in buying a soccer club in the U.K., though that has largely proven unsuccessful.
The SEC now appears to have reasons to question Tingo too, much like Hindenburg and the African tech community who have been puzzled by the company’s rise.
But Tingo responded today by publishing what it says are “profitable” numbers from its third quarter performance. It claimed to have made $586.2 million and $2.4 billion in net revenues for the three and nine months ended Sep. 30, 2023 respectively, compared to $13.7 million and $35.3 million in the same periods last year.
Tingo blamed the devaluation of the Nigerian naira currency for making this year’s third quarter results worse than the second quarter. It also said it is taking on new projects, including the purchase of 6 million smartphones for its farmers, the development of branded food products for release next year, and a potential launch in Pakistan.
Those claims are, to put it mildly, harder to trust with the SEC’s announcement.