Nigerian government probe into MTN listing baffles the market
Telecoms giant is still dealing with that country’s auditor-general on a $2bn claim for back taxes
The decision by the Nigerian authorities to investigate MTN’s listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange has left analysts baffled.
On Saturday, MTN Nigeria confirmed that it had received a letter from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), requesting information and documentation on the mobile operator’s listing .
The EFCC’s probe is not the first time the SA-based telecoms company has found itself in the crosshairs of Nigerian authorities, where it has 60-million of its 237-million subscribers worldwide.
MTN is still dealing with Nigeria’s auditor-general on a claim for back taxes, alleged to be $2bn.
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In 2018, MTN settled its $8.1bn repatriation matter with the Nigerian central bank, with a payment of $53m without admitting to guilt.
In 2015 the telecoms giant was slapped with a $5bn fine for failing to disconnect the SIM cards of 5-million unregistered users. The fine was reduced to $1.7bn after negotiations with the authorities.
MTN Nigeria said it has not been accused of any wrongdoing and will co-operate with the authorities, who are yet to provide details for the investigation.
The EFCC reportedly raided MTN’s Lagos offices on May 24.
Peter Takaendesa, portfolio manager at Mergence Group, said it is unclear what the investigation is about without further details from the Nigerian authorities.
“We don’t know what the details of the investigation are. Is it just procedural or where are they going with it? It’s not clear,” Takaendesa said.
He said he doubts that MTN would be involved in share price manipulation.
Asief Mohamed, chief investment officer at Aeon Investment Management, said he doubts that the investigation is justified.
“It looks like it’s another shakedown,” said Mohamed, whose company owns shares in MTN on behalf of clients.
Lester Davids, desk analyst at Unum Capital, said the impact on MTN Nigeria will be clearer once the EFCC provides more details.