MTN Gets Early Christmas Present, Settles Nigeria Dispute

MTN to pay just $53 million in the Nigerian dispute

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Remera On the wall in Kigali, Rwanda, is a yellow advertisement of the telecommunication company MTN,which is one of the biggest in East Africa.(Photo Credit: Andreas Marquardt / Shutterstock.com)
Remera On the wall in Kigali, Rwanda, is a yellow advertisement of the telecommunication company MTN,which is one of the biggest in East Africa.(Photo Credit: Andreas Marquardt / Shutterstock.com)

MTN was given the “best early Christmas present” as Africa’s biggest mobile phone operator settles a dispute with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The operator announced on Monday afternoon that it will pay N19.2 billion – equivalent to $53.2-million or R777-million in a settlement with CBN.

In September, CBN demanded $8,1 billion (R115 billion) allegedly paid as a dividend to MTN to be refunded to it.

The money was transferred by Standard Chartered, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Citibank and Diamond Bank.

Standard Chartered was fined 2.4-billion naira ($7.86m), Stanbic IBTC Bank 1.8-billion naira, Citibank 1.2-billion naira and Diamond Bank 250-million naira.

The government also handed MTN with a separate $2 billion tax bill.

The move resulted in MTN’s shares being hard hit by the news.

In an early Christmas gift, MTN announced that CBN instructed MTN Nigeria to implement a notional reversal of the 2008 private placement of shares in MTN Nigeria at a net cost of circa N19.2 billion – equivalent to $52.6m (the notional reversal amount). This is on the basis that certain certificates of capital importation (CCIs) utilised in the private placement were not properly issued.

MTN Nigeria has held various engagements in order to find an equitable resolution to the matter. In particular, a series of meetings were held in Lagos with CBN officials during November 2018.

At these meetings, MTN Nigeria provided additional material documentation which satisfactorily clarified its remittances.

“The CBN upon review of the additional documentation concluded that MTN Nigeria is no longer required to reverse the historical dividend payments made to MTN Nigeria shareholders,” said MTN.

“However, the CBN maintains that the proceeds from the preference shares in MTN Nigeria’s private placement remittances of 2008 of circa USD$ 1 billion were irregular having been based on CCIs that only had an approval-in-principle, but not final regulatory approval of CBN.”

The company said its Nigeria division and the CBN have agreed that they will resolve the matter on the basis that MTN Nigeria will pay the notional reversal amount without admission of liability.

In terms of the resolution agreement, the CBN will regularise all the CCIs issued on the investment by shareholders of MTN Nigeria of circa $402,625,419 without regard to any historical disputes relating to those CCIs, thereby bringing to a final resolution all incidental disputes arising from this matter.

MTN Nigeria relied on certain commercial banks to ensure all approvals had been obtained prior to the CCIs being issued and to ensure the CCIs were properly utilised in the private placement. MTN Nigeria will be engaging with the banks in relation to the issues dealt with in the resolution agreement.

In September, MTN applied to the Federal High Court of Nigeria for injunctive relief from the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Attorney General of the Nigerian Federation (AGF)’s orders.

“Shareholders are advised that the legal process initiated by MTN Nigeria for injunctive relief restraining the AGF  from taking further action in respect of its orders for back taxes is continuing,” the company informed investors.

The AGF matter came up for initial mention before the Federal High Court of Nigeria Lagos Judicial Division on 8 November 2018 and has been adjourned to 7 February 2019.

“MTN Nigeria continues to maintain that its tax matters are up to date and no additional payment, as claimed by the AGF, is due, and consequently no provisions or contingent liabilities are being raised in the accounts of MTN Nigeria for the AGF back taxes claim,” the company said.

In 2016, MTN was slapped with a $5.2 billion fine, which was later reduced to $3.9 billion and is still paying the Nigerian authorities.

Also read: Is Nigeria Kicking Itself In The Foot With Another MTN “Scandal”

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