South Africa has expressed concern over a N1.04 trillion (5.2 billion dollars) imposed by Nigerian authorities on MTN Group.
However, the country said it would not affect the cordial relations between the continent’s two biggest economies, a cabinet minister said on Thursday.
South African Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe told reporters “obviously as government we are concerned’’ and said the cabinet hoped that the talks between MTN and Nigerian authorities on the fine would bear fruit.
This follows Nigerian Communications Commission which has imposed a $5.2 billion (R70bn) fine for failing to disconnect about 5 million unregistered subscribers on its network.
The fallout from Nigeria is likely to cast a shadow on MTN chief executive Sifiso Dabengwa’s handling of the matter.
Earlier this year, he was slammed for his handling of a protracted strike that hit the local operations of MTN and saw the local division rope in a fifth chief executive in a period of just over seven years in a bid to stabilise the business.
The Nigerian authorities have given MTN until November 16 to pay up. Although they have not disclosed what steps they would take if MTN failed to comply with the payment deadline, there is concern that MTN may have its assets seized or frozen or its operating licence suspended or revoked.
“The company reiterates that engagements with the Nigerian authorities are continuing and any material developments in these engagements will be communicated to noteholders through SENS (the JSE’s regulatory news service),” MTN said in a statement.
“The PIC is concerned with the fine that has been imposed on MTN Nigeria for alleged non-compliance with telecommunications regulations of that country as well as allegations that MTN management did not immediately disclose this material information to the market,” said PIC chief executive Daniel Matjila, MTN’s largest shareholder.
As things stand this has become more political than economical issue.