MTN slams ‘false’ reports on $5.2bn Nigeria fine

Johannesburg - Africa’s biggest mobile network MTN [JSE:MTN] said on Tuesday evening that reports about it having reached a resolution with Nigerian regulators on a $5.2bn fine are false.

On October 26, MTN confirmed that it had received the massive fine from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for allegedly failing to disconnect five million unregistered SIM cards in a timely manner.

The announcement sent MTN’s share price sliding by around 20% while the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) is also investigating how the mobile network communicated the matter to shareholders.

Compounding MTN’s woes was a media report that emerged on the morning of Monday, November 2 from Nigeria about the company having reportedly agreed to pay the $5.2bn fine in staggered payments. Amid the report, MTN’s share price fell by over 6% and the JSE subsequently temporarily suspended trade in the stock.

And a day after the temporary suspension in trade, MTN finally spoke about about its discussions with regulators in Nigeria.

“MTN wishes to clarify and place on record that the company continues to engage constructively with Nigerian authorities at all levels,” said the company in a SENS announcement on Tuesday evening.

“However, the company has noted, with concern, the speculation and false information in the media. MTN particularly cautions against reports purporting that the company has agreed a resolution with the NCC on the fine. It is false as no resolution has yet been reached. MTN continues to engage the authorities in Nigeria on this matter,” said the company.

Meanwhile, group executive of corporate affairs at MTN, Chirs Maroleng, told Fin24 on Tuesday that his company’s relationship with Nigerian regulators is “ongoing” and that the extension of its licence in that country illustrates this.

On Tuesday morning, MTN announced in a market update that the NCC has granted an extension to the mobile network’s operating spectrum in the 900MHz and 1 800MHz frequency bands along with its digital mobile licence to August 31 2021.

“The extension of our licence in many ways reaffirms the confidence in the way in which MTN has operated and complied with regulations,” Maroleng told Fin24.

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