Nigeria ordered four banks including Citigroup and Standard Chartered to refund more than US$8-billion it says was illegally expatriated by MTN Group over eight years through to 2015.
The central bank also included Nigeria’s Stanbic IBTC Holdings and Diamond Bank in the charge, which comes almost two years after Johannesburg-based MTN was first accused of the misdemeanour. MTN was also ordered to participate in the refund. None of the lenders commented immediately, while MTN couldn’t immediately be reached.
The decision will come as a blow to MTN, because the company has already settled a separate, $1-billion 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 was planning to do so this year. Citi is working on that plan.
The four banks will also be fined about 5.9-billion naira ($16-million), Nigeria’s central bank said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday. Standard Chartered received the largest penalty for transferring the biggest amount of $3.4-billion, with Citi responsible for $1.7-billion.
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 202-billion naira ($14-billion), and touched eight-year lows earlier this month. — Reported by David Malingha Doya, with assistance from Paul Wallace, Yinka Ibukun, Emele Onu and Loni Prinsloo, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP