MTN may settle its SIM card dispute with Nigeria for $1.5 billion

MTN’s troubles might finally be over.
MTN’s troubles might finally be over.
Image: Reuters/Rogan Ward
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After weeks of talks, it appears MTN and Nigerian telecoms regulators may be close to settling the dispute over the company’s failure to disconnect unregistered sim cards. MTN have made an offer to settle the record fine for $1.5 billion, less than of the current $3.9 billion fine, according to Bloomberg.

In addition to the cash settlement, which will be paid in staggered payments over four years, Africa’s largest mobile operator is also offering government bond purchases valued at $400 million and network access worth $350 million.

News of the offer comes on the heels of a $250 million good faith payment and a state visit by Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa. In a letter to the Nigerian government Eric Holder, the former US attorney general hired by MTN to negotiate a settlement, described the offer as being in the “shared interest in the development of the country’s telecommunications sector and economy more generally.”

For MTN, an end to this nightmarish run cannot come quick enough. After being slapped with an initial $5.1 billion fine last October, the company has been hit hard. The news resulted in a sharp decline in share prices and boardroom casualties. Earlier this week, Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president, blamed the South African firm for the rise of Boko Haram, a militant sect believed to have killed over 10,000 Nigerians. According to Buhari, MTN’s failure to disconnect unregistered sim cards used by terrorists “contributed to the casualties.”