Nigeria’s central bank has ordered MTN to return $8.1bn back to the West African country, reviving a conflict that was thought to have been resolved in 2017.
The Central Bank Nigeria (CBN) alleges that the company has illegally repatriated $8.1bn between 2007 and 2015. MTN refutes the claims and it is assessing its options. The decision sent shares of Africa’s largest wireless carrier tumbling to their lowest level since 2009, falling by 22% to 83.89 rand ($5.85) per share as of midmorning in Johannesburg. “The re-emergence of these issues is regrettable as it damages investor confidence and, by extension, inhibits the growth and development of the Nigerian economy,” MTN said in a statement. “We will engage with the relevant authorities and vigorously defend our position on this matter and provide further information when available.”
Standard Bank also stated that it had received a demand from the central bank for $2.632bn, which its Nigerian subsidiary had issued in foreign exchange to MTN. The bank said it also faces a fine of $5.2m for violating foreign exchange laws. The central bank has also fined Citigroup, Standard Chartered Plc, Stanbic IBTC and Diamond Bank Plc around 5.9bn naira ($16m) for also helping to repatriate the money.
Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market with more than 54m customers, out of 221m globally. The most recent dispute comes as MTN prepares to list shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange as part of an unrelated dispute resolved in 2016. That settlement also led to a $1bn fine for MTN.