MTN fined $5.2 billion. Negotiations to continue.
Stock halted in Johannesburg after paring earlier decline
Phone company has lost abouth fifth of its value since penalty
MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s largest wireless operator, remains in negotiations with Nigerian regulators over a $5.2 billion fine for failing to comply with an order to disconnect customers with unregistered phone cards, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The stock was halted in Johannesburg trading after rebounding from a decline of as much as 9.7 percent following a report by CAJ News in Nigeria that MTN had failed to convince the Nigerian Communications Commission to lower its penalty. The shares last traded 5.3 percent lower at 149.48 rand, valuing the company at 276 billion rand ($20 billion).
The carrier hasn’t agreed to the fine and continues to meet with Nigerian authorities to challenge it, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. The shares have declined more than a fifth since news of the penalty broke a week ago.
MTN spokesman Chris Maroleng declined to comment. MTN head of investor relations Nik Kershaw said the company would release a statement later on Monday.
“I don’t have an update,” Tony Ojobo, a spokesman for the Nigerian Communications Commission, said by phone from the capital, Abuja.
Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market with 62 million customers as of September. The penalty, which has to be paid by Nov. 16, relates to the timing of the disconnection of 5.1 million MTN Nigeria subscribers in August and September and is based on a charge of 200,000 naira ($1,013) for each unregistered subscriber.