MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter has warned that developments in Nigeria have complicated its plans for an initial public offering in the West African nation.
The group’s share price plunged almost 20% on Thursday after the Nigerian central bank ordered four banks to refund more than US$8-billion it claimed was illegally expatriated from the country.
Nigeria ordered the banks — Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Diamond Bank, Citigroup and Standard Chartered — to refund the $8.1-billion. MTN has slammed the central bank’s decision, saying it will harm the Nigerian economy.
“The Nigeria IPO was always subject to satisfactory market conditions and this event will make it complicated to move forward on it,” Shuter said in an interview with TechCentral on Thursday.
He said, however, that teams working on the planned listing — which remains on track for this calendar year, for now — have been told to continue working on it on the assumption that it will still go ahead.
“We have certainly instructed our teams and advisers to carry on working at full pace. We are hoping to complete it by the end of 2018,” he said.
At the same time, Shuter said South Africa’s department of international relations & co-operation (Dirco), has asked to be briefed on the developments in Nigeria.
“We have a very good relationship with Dirco. They have asked for a briefing on the situation,” he said, without elaborating.
News of the Nigerian central bank’s demand that the $8.1-billion be repatriated by the banks compounds MTN’s woes in the country, coming just three years after a Nigerian regulator imposed a $5.2-billion fine on the company for failing to disconnect unregistered Sim cards. That fine was later reduced to $1-billion.
MTN slammed the central bank’s decision in a statement issued before markets opened in Johannesburg on Thursday. It said the Bank alleges that certificates of capital importation issued in respect of the conversion of shareholder loans in MTN Nigeria to preference shares in 2007 had been improperly issued.
“As a consequence, they claim that historic dividends repatriated by MTN Nigeria between 2007 and 2015 amounting to $8.1-billion need to be refunded to the Central Bank of Nigeria,” MTN said. “MTN Nigeria strongly refutes these allegations and claims.”
It said no dividends have been declared or paid by MTN Nigeria other than pursuant to capital importation certificates issued by its bankers and with the approval of the central bank as required by law. “The issues surrounding the (certificates) have already been the subject of a thorough inquiry by the senate of Nigeria.”
In September 2016, Nigerian lawmakers conducted a “holistic investigation” into MTN and other companies. A November 2017 report concluded that MTN Nigeria “did not collude to contravene the foreign exchange laws and there were no negative recommendations made against MTN Nigeria”, the group said. — © 2018 NewsCentral Media