MTN to cut FY dividend ahead of Nigeria fine settlement

THE Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, has said government would start a round of fresh talks with MTN very soon over the N780 billion ($3.9 billion) slammed on it by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for contravening regulatory orders.

MTN said last week it had withdrawn a lawsuit against Nigeria over the original $5.2 billion fine. Revenue increased 0.1% to R146.4 billion, as a rise in data revenue offset declining voice sales in Nigeria and handset sales in South Africa.

A judge in Lagos last month gave both parties until March 18 to reach a settlement, after MTN had asked the court to arbitrate over the dispute, saying the Nigerian telecoms regulator had no legal grounds to order the fine. MTN Nigeria has complied with these requirements and now awaits the NCC’s approval of new tariff plans and promotions submitted.

The company, though, still announced a final dividend of 830 cents per share, with total dividend of 1 310 cents per share. The pre-paid segment increased by 12.3 percent to 25.3 million subscribers, while the post-paid subscriber base decreased by 3.3 percent to 5.2 million, hurt by low availability of handsets due to a strike earlier in the year.

Nigeria is MTN’s largest market, where it now has 61.3 million subscribers out of a total of 232.5 million.

Capex for the period was R10.9 billion – 92.9% higher than the previous year.

MTN will pay a minimum dividend of 7 rand a share to investors in 2016, the wireless operator said in the statement. “But MTN must have a feel for what is going on with the ongoing negotiations on the fine”.

Full-year earnings per share excluding one-time items fell 51% to R7.46 in 2015 as a result of the fine provision.

“Discussions with the Nigerian authorities continue on the matter”, MTN Group Executive Chairman Phuthuma Nhleko said of the provisioning.

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