People stand near an advertising billboard for MTN in Abuja, Nigeria. Picture: REUTERS/AFOLABI SOTUNDE
People stand near an advertising billboard for MTN in Abuja, Nigeria. Picture: REUTERS/AFOLABI SOTUNDE

MTN is close to securing a deal with Nigeria’s central bank over an order to repay $8.1bn it is alleged to have illegally taken out of the country, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A settlement is expected by Monday and could come as early as Friday, said the person, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorised to comment publicly. The Central Bank of Nigeria will meet the four banks accused of facilitating the transfers on Friday — Standard Chartered, Citigroup, Stanbic IBTC and Diamond Bank — and that meeting could end the saga, the person said.

MTN, Citibank, Standard Chartered and Stanbic IBTC declined to comment. A spokesperson for Nigeria’s central bank and representatives from Diamond Bank did not answer calls seeking confirmation after regular business hours.

An end to the dispute would come as a relief for MTN, Africa’s largest wireless carrier by subscribers. The company has lost almost a fifth of its market value since Nigerian authorities said in late August that it needed to repay the $8.1bn. MTN and the four banks, which have been fined $16m between them, deny any wrongdoing.

If a deal is reached, MTN will probably dismiss its court case against the central bank and Nigeria’s attorney general, which it brought to stop the transfer order, according to the person. However, the company is also facing a claim that it owes $2bn in back taxes in Nigeria, its biggest market.

Bloomberg

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