Nigeria orders MTN, banks to refund $8bn in exported funds

Nigeria ordered four banks including Citigroup and Standard Chartered to refund more than $8bn (about R115bn) it says was illegally expatriated by mobile-phone company the MTN Group [JSE:MTN] over eight years through 2015.

The central bank also included Nigeria’s Stanbic IBTC Holdings and Diamond Bank in the charge, which comes almost two years after MTN was first accused of the practice.

MTN was also ordered to participate in the refund. None of the lenders commented immediately when contacted by Bloomberg, while MTN couldn’t immediately be reached.

The decision will come as a blow to MTN, because the company has already settled a separate, $1bn fine in Nigeria for missing a deadline to disconnect unregistered customers. Negotiations over that penalty went on for almost a year and weighed heavily on the share price, which has never recovered.

As part of the settlement, MTN agreed to list its local unit in Lagos and is planning to do so this year. Citi is working on that plan.

The four banks will also be fined about $16m (R230m), Nigeria’s central bank said in an emailed statement Wednesday. Standard Chartered received the largest penalty for transferring the biggest amount of $3.4bn (R48.8bn), with Citi responsible for $1.7bn (R24.4bn).

Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market with more than 54 million customers, out of 221 million worldwide. The share price has slumped 21% this year to R107.34, valuing the company at R202 billion ($14bn), and touched eight-year lows earlier this month.

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