MTN warns of ‘misleading reports’ over Nigeria fine

Africa’s mobile phone giant MTN stepped up its defense of its engagement with the Nigerian authorities, warning the media of ‘misleading reports’ and advising investors to refrain from taking decisions based on these unconfirmed reports. By Gugu Lourie 

In a statement published on Friday MTN informed investors that it was aware of the various reports that appeared in the press on Thursday regarding the $3.9 billion fine imposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission for failure to register subscribers in Africa’s biggest economy and most populous market.

On Thursday, media reports said MTN has proposed to pay 300 billion naira ($1.5 billion) to settle the fine.

“MTN has previously advised shareholders not to make decisions based on press reports and MTN again urges its shareholders to refrain from doing so,” the telco said in a JSE filing on Friday.

The firm reiterated that it continues to engage with the Nigerian authorities in an attempt to ensure an amicable resolution to this matter in the interests of MTN Nigeria, its stakeholders and the Nigerian authorities.

It further advised shareholders to continue exercise caution when trading on its shares.

Last month, MTN agreed to pay $250 million ( R3.87 billion) to settle dispute with the Nigerian authorities over the failure by the mobile phone giant to register subscribers. The South African-based telco said it made the payments to the Federal Government of Nigeria on Wednesday and anticipate that it will be taken as a settlement to the ongoing dispute.

MTN was given a December 31 2015 deadline to pay the R59 billion ($3.9 billion) fine for its failure to disconnect 5.2 million subscribers who did not register their SIM cards. The payment deadline has expired.

But the South African-based telco hired seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) to fight the fine in the Federal High Court in Lagos. The initial fine was $5.2 billion and was in December reduced to $3.9 billion.

However, late January 2016 it emerged that MTN and the Nigerian authorities may reach an out of court settlement over the dispute.

The hearings of the dispute were expected before the Federal High Court in Lagos, Nigeria on 22 January 2016.

However, MTN informed investors that the judge adjourned the matter to 18 March 2016 in order to “enable the parties to try and settle the matter. If the parties are unable to reach a settlement the matter will then proceed on that date”.

The company has set aside a R9.3 billion Nigerian regulatory fine provision.

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