MTN's head office in Johannesburg. Picture: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
MTN's head office in Johannesburg. Picture: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK

MTN Group and its bankers have provided more documents that may reduce Nigeria’s $8.1bn claim, which could be resolved soon, Central Bank of Nigeria governor Godwin Emefiele said.

The central bank alleged in late August that MTN and four banks — Standard Chartered, Citigroup, Stanbic and Diamond Bank — illegally repatriated money from Nigeria and that the company should return $8.1bn. The local regulator also fined the four banks a combined $16m. 

Speaking to reporters in London on Sunday, Emefiele said he expected that the new information would help cut the size of the claim and that the matter would be resolved “amicably.”

“I don’t think it will be at $8.1bn, having provided documents,” Emefiele said, adding his staff is studying the documents and he hopes to make a decision on the matter in a “couple of weeks”.

MTN sought an injunction in early September to buy itself time and fight the claim in its biggest market, which wiped as much as 36% off its market value within two weeks.

“They will see they have been given a fair hearing,’’ Emefiele said. “More information has been provided and I’m very optimistic that matters are going to be resolved amicably.’’

Emefiele said the clash with MTN had taken a “global dimension” that it did not need to and that he was keen to demonstrate to international investors how open the Nigerian market is, calling the MTN matter “isolated’’ and no reason “for anyone to lose any sleep’’.

“This is not a matter that should have blown so openly,’’ he said. “Nigeria is a country that happens to be very, very open.’’

MTN shares slumped as much as 11% on Friday after a report that Africa’s biggest cellphone network operator was facing pressure to transfer $8.1bn to Nigeria before the country’s courts rule on its conflict with the central bank. 

Bloomberg reported that the Central Bank of Nigeria, which accuses the SA based company of repatriating dividends illegally, said that MTN should pay an annualised 15% interest until the country’s courts rule on the matter, and then 10% until the whole sum is paid. 

MTN’s share price closed 4% down on Friday at R83.80. 

Bloomberg, With Staff Writer