South African telecoms operator MTN Group has agreed to make a $53 million payment to resolve a dispute in Nigeria, it said on Monday, ending a four-month multi-billion dollar dividend repatriation row that has hammered its share price.
Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market, accounting for a third of the African telecoms heavyweight’s annual core profit, but it has proven problematic for the company in recent years.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had ordered MTN and its lenders to bring back a total of $8.1 billion it alleged the company had illegally repatriated using improperly issued paperwork between 2007 and 2008.
“The CBN upon review of the additional documentation concluded that MTN Nigeria is no longer required to reverse the historical dividend payments made to MTN Nigeria shareholders,” MTN said in a statement.
However, the central bank has found that a 2008 private placement remittance worth around $1 billion was based on certificates that did not have final approval.
As such, MTN said it had been instructed by CBN to implement “a notional” reversal of that transaction by making a $52.6 million payment.
“MTN Nigeria and the CBN have agreed that they will resolve the matter on the basis that MTN Nigeria will pay the notional reversal amount without admission of liability,” MTN said in a statement.