Nigeria’s CBN Governor says $8.1bn claim against MTN may reduce

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele said documents recently presented to the Bank by MTN Group Ltd and its bankers may see the $8.1 billion claim reduced.

“I don’t think it will be staying at $8.1 billion,” Emefiele told reporters in London on Sunday. “I want to believe that the figures will reduce. Whether they will be dropped completely, I honestly cannot say at this time.”

However, he expressed optimism that the issue would be resolved amicably as the parties involved have been given a fair hearing, adding that he hoped to make a decision on the matter in a “couple of weeks”.

The central bank had directed MTN to return some $8.1 billion it claimed the telco took out of Nigeria illegally, and fined its bankers the sum of $15.6 million for facilitating the repatriation of the funds. MTN and its bankers had denied any wrongdoing, insisting that due process was followed in the transactions.

The telecommunications giant also asked a Federal High Court in Lagos to stop the CBN from taking any actions against it with regards to the claim. Court papers seen by Bloomberg had shown the CBN requesting the court to direct MTN to pay 15 percent interest per year on the $8.1 billion moved out of the country until the courts make a judgment and a further 10 percent from when a judgement has been made until the whole amount is paid. However, the court papers are believed to have been filed before the CBN reviewed the documents Emefiele referred to on Sunday.

MTN

The claim by the CBN saw MTN lose more than 30 percent of its value. The claim also saw ratings agency Fitch place the telco’s Long-Term Foreign-Currency ‘BB+’ Issuer Default Rating (IDR) on Rating Watch Negative (RWN). However, recent promising statements from the central bank on a possible resolution of the matter has seen the MTN’s shares rebound in recent weeks.

The telco has raised doubt about listing its shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange by initial public offering citing unfavourable market conditions.