MTN’s group CEO, Sifiso Dabengwa, is in Nigeria to negotiate with authorities in the West African country as the JSE-listed telecommunications provider looks to head off a damaging US$5,2bn (R72bn) fine.
In a statement to shareholders on Friday morning, MTN said: “Further to the Sens announcement which the company issued on 26 October 2015 relating to this matter, shareholders are advised that the group CEO is engaging with the Nigerian authorities on the regulatory aspects of this matter.
“In addition, senior management of the company and its advisors are currently engaging with the JSE on the timing of the aforementioned Sens announcement. The company will update shareholders through Sens on these engagements as soon as possible,” MTN said.
Sens is the JSE’s news service, which listed companies use to make announcements that affect their shareholders.
TechCentral revealed earlier this week that the JSE was engaging in a “focused conversation” with MTN’s sponsor, Deutsche Securities, over the timing of the publication of the first Sens statement. It was doing so in the interests of the group’s shareholders, said GM for issuer regulation Andre Visser.
MTN has come under heavy fire from some quarters for failing to alert the market of the fine imposed on its Nigerian subsidiary by the Nigerian Commissions Commission (NCC) for more than seven hours after Sens opened on Monday and more than five hours into the day’s trading session.
The group’s week from hell continued on Friday morning with the news that ratings agency Standard & Poor’s had downgraded its credit rating and put it on a watch negative related to uncertainty around the fine.
On Thursday, AFP reported that the NCC had given MTN until 16 November — just 18 days from now — to cough up the full, $5,2bn fine, or face the consequences.
MTN is facing the NCC’s wrath for failing to disconnect 5,1m unregistered Sim cards from its network by an 11 August deadline. The commission has imposed a fine of 200 000 naira (or about R14 000) on each unregistered Sim that was not disconnected in time.
“The deadline set for the payment of the fine is 16 November,” NCC spokesman Tony Ojobo is quoted by AFP as having said. “The key issue is if MTN breached the law or not. Certainly, there was a breach. And if there is a breach, we will apply the law.”
According to AFP, top-level talks kicked off in Abuja on Thursday between MTN, the NCC and officials from the Nigerian government in an effort to find a compromise solution.
The fine comes as MTN seeks to renew its operating licence in Nigeria. The licence expires next June. — © 2015 NewsCentral Media