MTN is still in talks with Nigerian officials to find an acceptable solution to a dispute over the alleged transfer of R16.5 billion of funds. File Image: IOL

JOHANNESBURG - Telecoms firm MTN said on Tuesday that it was continuing to hold talks with Nigerian officials to find a mutually acceptable solution to a dispute over the alleged transfer of $8.1 billion (R16.5bn) of funds.

“Shareholders are advised to continue to exercise caution when dealing in the company’s securities until a further announcement is made,” MTN said in a statement on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, where its shares are listed. 

COURT CASE

Yesterday, it was revealed that a hearing between MTN and Nigeria’s central bank had been set for October 30.

MTN has denied claims that it depleted Nigeria’s forex reserves, the South African telecoms group’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, told Reuters on Friday, after the central bank accused the company of moving $8.1 billion abroad in an ongoing row with the bank, which is battling to shore up its currency.

Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market and accounts for a third of its annual core profit.

The central bank has said in its counterclaim to the court that MTN contributed to depleting Nigeria’s reserves through the purchase of dollars via unapproved certificates. MTN has denied any wrongdoing.

Nigeria faced a severe shortage of dollars in 2016 caused by low oil prices, leading to a sharp devaluation of the naira. The currency crisis triggered a recession, which the country emerged from last year.

MTN said in a court filing on Thursday that it paid the naira-equivalent to purchase a total of $8.1 billion from the central bank in several tranches over a nine-year period and that it did not negatively impair reserves.

Nigeria has burnt reserves to keep the naira stable. Central bank data on Thursday showed that the bank spent $2.2 billion in the month to October 16, to defend the naira, while reserves fell to an eight-month low of $42.8 billion.

REUTERS