MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s biggest mobile-network operator by sales, said it returned to profit in 2017, recovering from a $1 billion fine it paid for its Nigerian business in the prior period. In a statement, the company which is Nigeria’s largest telecommunications network said the financial statement would cover 12 months for the period ended December 31, 2017.
The company announced that it lost $200m in 2016 – the first full-year loss of the company in its 22 years of existence. It blamed the loss on the fine imposed on it by the Nigerian Communications Commission. In 2016, NCC imposed a fine on the telecommunication giant over its failure to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards.
The fine was reduced to N780bn in December 2015 and was further reduced in June 2016 to N330bn, with payment spread over three years. As of March 2017, the company had already paid a total of N110bn of the N330bn fine.
The remaining payments to be made in tranches are N55bn by March 31, 2018; N55bn by December 31, 2018; another N55bn by March 31, 2019 and a balance of N55bn latest May 31, 2019.
MTN is working its way through a tumultuous period triggered by the Nigerian penalty in October 2015. Originally set at $5.2 billion, the penalty led to the resignation of the CEO and months of negotiations before it was eventually settled.