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MTN: We are relying on courts to settle $10.1b dispute with Nigerian authorities

  1. MTN Group, Africa’s biggest mobile operator, will keep engaging with Nigerian authorities to resolve a $10.1 billion dispute with the West African country but is putting its faith in the courts to protect itself, its Chief Executive Officer, Rob Shuter said yesterday.

Reuters reported that the telecom firm, which makes about a third of its annual core profit in Nigeria, has said the allegations are without merit, but added that no further negative steps have been taken by authorities in Nigeria.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on August 29 ordered the South African firm and its lenders to bring $8.1 billion back into Nigeria that it alleges the company sent abroad in breach of foreign exchange regulations.

MTN also faces a $2 billion tax demand from the country’s attorney general.

MTN has denied any wrongdoing, and filed a court case against the central bank.

“We have continued engagement with authorities, exchanging documentation and there is genuine will to reach an amicable situation,” Shuter said on a conference call.

“However, we need to protect ourselves and we are relying on the courts in Nigeria to make sure there’s an amicable resolution.”

A court hearing between the central bank and MTN on the $8.1 billion repatriation case is scheduled for Tuesday (today).

Shuter said investors should note that the company did not expect a resolution to come through then.

“No further negative steps have been taken by the authorities in Nigeria, however, it is important to keep legal steps going,” Shuter said, adding that MTN was not carrying out any repatriations from Nigeria for now.

“Tomorrow (today) we are likely to have an adjourned date because more information will likely be requested, however, it is important to create an environment to look for continued solutions.”

Shuter said although it had been a difficult quarter due to the regulatory challenges in Nigeria, the company still managed to put in a strong performance in Africa’s biggest economy with data revenue growing.

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