MTN dares Nigerians, suspends dividend payouts

MTN says it had suspended dividends payouts from Nigeria, where it runs the biggest wireless phone network and which generates a third of its annual sales.

The company reported a slight fall in third-quarter user numbers due to a weaker showing in South Africa, where it vies for market share with Vodacom and Cell Companies.

The telecoms company announced this in Johannesburg on Monday, as the firm faces allegations it illegally moved 14 billion dollars out of Nigeria.

MTN Group’s next chief executive will take over three months ahead of plan.

Rob Shuter, Vodafone European boss, was due to start in July 2017; however, MTN said in a statement that accompanying its quarterly updates that the new officer would now start on March 13, 2017.

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South Africa-born Shuter, a banker with risk management background, will inherit a company that is the subject of a parliamentary investigation in Nigeria if it unlawfully repatriated 13.97 billion dollars between 2006 and 2016.

“MTN Nigeria continues to refute the allegations that it had improperly repatriated funds from Nigeria.

“Consequently, MTN Nigeria will strongly defend any action that would be prejudicial to its interest”, the company said in its quarterly statement.

The crux of the allegation is that MTN did not obtain certificates declaring it had invested foreign currency in Nigeria within a 24-hour deadline stipulated in a 1995 law.

It, therefore, said that the repatriation of returns on those investments was illegal.

MTN this year agreed to pay a reduced fine of 1.08 billion dollars (N330 billion) to end a long running dispute over unregistered SIM cards in Nigeria.

Shares in the company have fallen by more than 14 per cent to their lowest level in more than six years since the latest issue surfaced on Sept. 27.

MTN had faced some challenge after the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) fined the company about N1 trillion for allowing unregistered sim cards on its network.

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