A court in Nigeria has given MTN and the Nigerian Communications Commission two months to try to settle a dispute over a record-setting US$3,9bn fine imposed on the telecommunications operator by the commission.
The development has raised hopes that the parties could reach an amicable agreement out of court. The news has sent MTN’s share price surging higher on Friday.
The federal high court in Lagos has given the parties until 18 March to try to settle the matter.
In a statement to shareholders, released via the JSE’s stock exchange news service on 1pm on Friday, MTN said the matter came up for hearing before the federal high court in Lagos on Friday morning.
“The judge adjourned the matter to 18 March 2016 in order to enable the parties to try and settle the matter,” MTN said.
“If the parties are unable to reach a settlement the matter will then proceed on that date,” it said.
MTN group spokesman Chris Maroleng could not immediately be reached for comment on whether the development raises hopes of an out of court agreement being reached.
MTN’s share price was trading up by nearly 9% shortly after the statement was issued.
On 17 December, MTN announced that it had decided to take the legal route to challenge the record-setting fine imposed on it by the NCC for failing to disconnect 5m unregistered Sim cards under Nigeria’s tough Sim card registration law.
It said it took the legal route after exhausting all other options to have the fine reduced.
“All factors having a bearing on the matter have been thoroughly and carefully considered, including a review of the circumstances leading to the fine and the subsequent letters received from the NCC,” MTN said at the time.
“MTN Nigeria, acting on legal advice, has resolved that the manner of the imposition of the fine and the quantum thereof is not in accordance with the NCC’s powers under the Nigerian Communications Act and therefore there are valid grounds upon which to challenge the fine,” it said.
The fine, even after the NCC agreed to reduce it from $5,2bn to $3,9bn, is by many orders of magnitude the largest fine ever imposed on a telecoms operator by a regulator anywhere in the world.
The fine has already cost MTN’s group CEO, Sifiso Dabengwa, his job. CEO of MTN Nigeria Michael Ikpoki has also resigned. — (c) 2016 NewsCentral Media