MTN's Nigeria License Renewed as Talks Over Record Fine Continue

A customer uses a mobile phone beside an MTN Group Ltd. 'Connect Point' in Lagos, Nigeria.

A customer uses a mobile phone beside an MTN Group Ltd. 'Connect Point' in Lagos, Nigeria.

Photographer: George Osodi/Bloomberg
  • West African nation's regulator extends permit to August 2021
  • Company has to pay $94.2 million for extension by Dec. 31

MTN Group Ltd., the African mobile-network operator that faces a record $5.2 billion fine in Nigeria, said the country’s Communications Commission approved the renewal and extension of its license for another five years.

“MTN’s operating spectrum, which was issued along with the digital-mobile license in 2001 with an original expiry date of February 2016, has now been extended to Aug. 31, 2021,” the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement on Tuesday. MTN has to pay $94.2 million by Dec. 31 to secure the license for the 900MHz and 1800MHz frequency bands and the extension, it said.

While the regulator has approved the license, MTN remains in negotiations over its fine for failing to comply with an order to disconnect customers with unregistered phone cards. Since the penalty was disclosed, the operator’s share price has plummeted 22 percent, with trade being temporarily suspended yesterday to give the company time to communicate with the market and try stem the decline. MTN has until Nov. 16 to pay the penalty.

Apart from its digital-mobile license, MTN also has a unified access permit and a 3G spectrum license in Nigeria, it said, without providing details on when those are due to expire.

MTN rose 0.9 percent to 149.55 rand as of 9:23 a.m. in Johannesburg trading.

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