Nigeria backs down in $2bn dispute with telecoms giant MTN

10 January 2020 - 17:04 By Libby George in Lagos and Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru
A general view shows MTN head office in Lagos, Nigeria
A general view shows MTN head office in Lagos, Nigeria
Image: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

Nigeria's attorney general has withdrawn a $2bn (R28.35bn) tax demand against SA's telecoms giant MTN Group, a closely watched case that critics said damaged Nigeria's appeal to foreign investors.

In a letter filed with the Nigerian stock exchange, MTN said the government had decided to drop its case and refer the issue to tax and customs authorities "with a view to resolving contentious issues".

"We are very pleased with the decision of the (attorney general) and we commend him for his wisdom," MTN Nigeria's Chief Executive Ferdi Moolman said in a statement.

Shares in MTN Group rose by more than 4% after the announcement. Nigeria is its biggest market, with roughly 60-million users.

Attorney General Abubakar Malami had ruled that the firm owed taxes relating to the import of equipment and payments to foreign suppliers from 2007 to 2017. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

MTN, whose local unit listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange last year, has said it would sell more shares to the public and increase local ownership once the tax row is resolved.

- Reuters