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Market analysts divided on MTN Nigeria's CBN issue

Market analysts divided on MTN Nigeria's CBN issue

On news of the Central Bank of Nigeria's (CBN) directive to repay US$8.1 billion MTN's shares fell from 10.733 ZAC at the close of trading on 29 August to 8.591 ZAC by COB on 30 August, losing approximately 20% of its value within 24 hours. Industry analysts seem divided on the issue.

According to media reports CBN also fined Standard Chartered 2.4 billion naira (US$7.86 million), Stanbic Bank 1.8 billion naira, Citibank 1.2 billion naira and Diamond Bank 250 million naira.

MTN's shares initially dropped to 8.368 ZAC at 1pm but rose to 8.591 at the end of Thursday, coinciding with the release of a statement by the operator in which it denied any wrongdoing.

Nigeria industry expert Akin Oyebode said: "The crux of the issue is that MTN's conversion of loans to equity didn't get final approval from CBN, and their bankers issued CCIs based on the conversion."

A Johannesburg-based financial expert who spoke to ITWeb Africa on condition of anonymity said that the sentiment at major mining companies and investment houses in the city is that Nigeria is cash-strapped and wants to use MTN to boost reserves.

"If MTN refund this money today, they can legally take it back out tomorrow. What is the point of all this over paperwork that has since been rectified?" he asked.

Economist and policy researcher Daniel Chimezie said, "This is very good. In South Africa, you cannot get one dollar if you don't bring in one dollar ... very anti-foreigners and anti-business policies. But their own companies move billions of dollars out of other African countries. High time their short-sightedness is reciprocated."

Chimezie argued that CBN's action is good for Nigeria and added, "CBN is definitely right enforcing the rules. They can repatriate capital but must follow the rules, simple. Illegal outflow of funds like that constitute illicit financial flows. Unmitigated outflow of foreign currency hurts our reserve level, our import cover and the Central bank's ability to maintain the stability of the naira. It is good for us. MTN must play by the rules if it must do business here. We won't condone corporate irresponsibility."

Babatunde Irukera, Director-General, Consumer Protection Council, added that the description by the banks that the violation of law and loss to nation was as unintended omission was inadmissible excuse.

"Will any patriot argue for lax regulatory oversight to attract foreign direct investment? Is what we get really investment when violations leave nation and consumers shortchanged?" Irukera asked.

Chimezie said: 'Simply put, they are not playing by the rules, no need for stories. Nobody is witch-hunting them. Even Google has been fined many times by the EU. MTN should play by the rules and it won't get hurt. This is not a lawless country. You must play by the rules or you pay the penalty."

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