Africa’s biggest mobile network, MTN Group, shrugged off its Nigeria’s woes yesterday and strengthened 5.34 per cent to close at R115.37 after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) instructed the country’s banks to suspend any remittance of MTN dividends until further notice.
The Nigerian bourse stance comes as authorities accused the company of illegally repatriating $14 billion (R195 billion) from the country over 10 years.
MTN Nigeria said yesterday that it remained committed to the payment of the N330 billion (about R14 billion) fine related to the late disconnection of “improperly registered” SIM cards.
The company has not declared a dividend since April and MTN Nigeria has no intention to make any dividend payments over the next six months.
The Nigerian unit continued to refute the allegation that it had improperly repatriated funds from Nigeria, with MTN Nigeria Chief Executive, Ferdi Moolman, saying: “The allegations made against MTN Nigeria are completely unfounded and without any merit.”
But in its quarterly figures for September, the company beat market expectations after it reported stronger data revenue and improved subscriber numbers yesterday. Analysts said the deepening woes in Nigeria had not harmed the company and its performance much.
The telecoms giant’s shares strengthened more than five percent to trade on the JSE yesterday as it also said it would fast-track the starting date of its new Chief Executive, Rob Schuter, who was expected to join the company in March.
MTN’s Group Executive Chairman, Phuthuma Nhleko, said the September results were testimony that MTN’s transformation project, which initially focused on its key markets Nigeria and South Africa, with hard targets set for the next 12, 18 and 24 months, would pay off.
“Operations are expected to deliver the first results on clearly defined targets in the first half of 2017,” Nhleko said.
Nhleko, according to the South African-based Independent Newspaper, also said despite a difficult environment due to weaker macro-economic conditions, particularly in oil-dependent economies, and the regulatory challenges experienced, the group would benefit from the fundamental changes implemented.
Following the hefty Nigerian fine, the company appointed senior managers, including Felleng Sekha who joined the group as executive for regulatory affairs and public this month.
Jon Tullett, the Research Manager at International Data Corporation, said the September quarter results were much needed good news for the troubled operator on two levels.
“Firstly, MTN’s strong performance on network is good for transitioning from voice to data. Secondly, the acceleration of new chief executive is very important;they need strong established leadership to take them forward,” he said.
MTN was slapped with the record fine for unregistered SIM cards in Nigeria last year