How Nigeria took a bite out of MTN
Nigerian authorities last week shocked MTN with an order that it return $8.1bn in dividends to the country, sending the mobile operator’s shares crashing. Management says MTN has no plans to exit Nigeria and that the company is simply collateral damage in a tussle between its banking partners and the central bank. But is that all there is to it?
The ceasefire between Nigerian authorities and MTN was brought to an abrupt and dramatic end last week, sending investors fleeing for cover. Speaking to the FM from Nigeria on Tuesday, MTN CEO Rob Shuter, one of the more level-headed executives around, still managed to convey an air of calm despite having had two gigantic Nigerian bombshells dropped on him in recent days. But beneath Shuter’s composed exterior, he and his management team are deeply frustrated, as are MTN’s investors, who have been on a nightmare ride for the past three years. The latest string of crises will test the resolve of management and investors alike. Just months after MTN put out fires in Benin and Cameroon, Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on the group’s third-biggest market, Iran, in early August. That was nothing compared with what was to come. Last week, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in its own words, "slammed" fines on MTN’s banking partners and told the operator to return a staggering $8.1bn wort...