Nigeria Seeks `Amicable' MTN Relations Amid $10 Billion Claims

(Bloomberg) -- Nigeria’s telecommunications regulator will strive to keep relations amicable between the government and MTN Group Ltd. as the two parties negotiate $10 billion of claims against Africa’s largest wireless operator.

The South African mobile-phone company has been rocked twice in the past two weeks in its biggest market, with the central bank and the attorney general accusing MTN of illegally repatriating funds and failing to pay back taxes. MTN denies the allegations and is seeking a court order to halt the process.

“The Nigerian Communications Commission is doing what it can to facilitate amicable resolution of MTN’s standoff with the tax and finance regulators,” the regulator’s Chief Executive Officer Umar Danbatta said in an interview in Durban, South Africa on Tuesday.

MTN’s share price has plunged by more than a third since the crisis erupted late last month and traded 3.3 percent lower at 71.66 rand as of 3:50 p.m. in Johannesburg. The dispute comes just over two years after the Johannesburg-based company settled a separate, $1 billion fine over improperly registered subscribers that was levied by the NCC.

The regulator still sees MTN as a valuable partner, NCC spokesman Tony Ojobo said earlier Tuesday. Africa’s most populous country needs to be “cautious” when handling investor relations he added, acknowledging that the severity of the penalties could cause some concern.

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