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CBN May Reduce MTN’s $8.1bn Fine – Emefiele

There are indications that some reprieves may come the way of MTN Group as Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele,  said its $8.1bn claim against the telecommunication company may be reduced after the telecoms giant and its bankers provided more documents which could help resolve the stalemate surrounding the initial fine.

The central bank had alleged in late August that MTN and four banks — Standard Chartered Plc, Citigroup Inc., Stanbic IBTC Plc and Diamond Bank Plc — illegally repatriated money from Nigeria and that the company should return $8.1 billion. The local regulator also fined the four banks a combined $16 million.

Speaking to reporters in London on Sunday, Emefiele said he expected that the new information would help cut the size of the claim and that the matter would be resolved “amicably.”

“I don’t think it will be at $8.1 billion having provided documents,” Emefiele said, adding his staff is studying the documents and he hoped to make a decision on the matter in a “couple of weeks.” Bloomberg said in a report.

MTN sought an injunction in early September to buy itself time and fight the claim in its biggest market, which wiped as much as 36 percent off its market value within two weeks.

The central bank has asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to deny MTN’s request and said the company should pay an annualized 15 percent interest on the dividends until the matter is ruled upon, and then 10 percent until the whole sum is paid, according to legal documents filed by the regulator.

“They will see they have been given a fair hearing,’’ Emefiele said. “More information has been provided and I’m very optimistic that matters are going to be resolved amicably.’’

Emefiele, who is credited with helping stabilizing the naira and boosting Nigeria’s agricultural and local manufacturing during the painful recession, said the clash with MTN had taken a “global dimension” that it didn’t need to and that he was keen to demonstrate to international investors how open the Nigerian market is, calling the MTN matter “isolated’’ and no reason “for anyone to lose any sleep.’’

“This is not a matter that should have blown so openly,’’ he said. “Nigeria is a country that happens to be very, very open.’’

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