Nigerian regulator issues $5B fine to MTN

MTN Nigeria has been hit with a massive NGN 1.04 trillion ($5.2 billion) fine by the country’s telecoms regulator the NCC after it failed to register personal details for 5.1 million subscribers.

The penalty was signed off by the new chief of the NCC, Professor Umar Danbatta. Currently, MTN has until November 16th to pay the fine, with the Technology Times reporting that the operator’s Nigerian unit “disobeyed several directives issued to them”.

The operator is in talks with the Nigerian watchdog over the lapse, but has confirmed that: “this fine relates to the timing of the disconnection of 5.1 million MTN Nigeria subscribers who were disconnected in August and September 2015 and is based on a fine of NGN200, 000 for each unregistered subscriber.”

“As per our SENS [Stock Exchange News Service] announcement, the company reiterates that engagements with the Nigerian authorities are continuing and any material developments in these engagements will be communicated to shareholders through SENS,” added MTN.

MTN noted that it is attempting to settle the issue with the NCC “in recognition of the circumstances that prevailed with regard to these subscribers”. For its part, the regulator has noted that operators are required to register all subscriber details and deactivate unregistered connections, and claimed that MTN “opened the country to grave security threats” by failing in this requirement.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) has suspended trading of shares in MTN until the company makes an announcement, with share prices falling sharply in anticipation of the operator agreeing to pay the fine. However, MTN stated “shareholders should specifically exercise caution when reacting to information on this matter which has not been released by the company.”

While MTN is based in South Africa, Nigeria is its largest market with 62.5 million subscribers – more than double the 29.5 million connections in its home market.

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