October 9, 2018 / 9:52 AM / 6 days ago

Nigeria's central bank head to meet MTN and banks over $8.1 billion repatriation row -sources

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria’s central bank governor is to meet representatives of telecommunications company MTN (MTNJ.J) and banks on Tuesday to discuss a dispute over the repatriation of $8.1 billion, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of MTN is pictured in Abuja, Nigeria September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

The dispute is over the transfer of $8.1 billion of funds which Nigeria’s central bank said the company had sent abroad in breach of foreign-exchange regulations. Nigeria, which accounts for a third of the South African company’s annual core profit, is MTN’s biggest market.

The people with knowledge of the matter, who did not want to be named, said executives from MTN and the four lenders involved in the case - Standard Chartered (STAN.L), Stanbic IBTC Bank (IBTC.LG), Citibank (C.N) and Diamond Bank (DIAMONB.LG) - would hold talks with Nigerian Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Central Bank of Nigeria's logo is seen on the headquarters building in Abuja, Nigeria January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

MTN declined to comment and a central bank spokesman did not respond to a text message and phone calls seeking comment.

Shares in MTN, Africa’s biggest telecoms company, weakened more than 4 percent on Tuesday on uncertainty over the outcome of a meeting and by 1127 GMT were down 2.21 percent at 84.10 rand.

The stock has lost around 20 percent since the demand by Nigeria’s central bank on Aug. 29.

Nigeria’s central bank said the funds had been illegally moved abroad because the company’s bankers had failed to verify MTN had met all the foreign exchange regulations.

MTN has denied the allegations.

The talks in Nigeria come days after Emefiele said the bank may reduce the amount to be repatriated.

The money is more than half of MTN’s market capitalisation, and analysts have said the demand risked further undermining Nigeria’s efforts to shake off an image as a risky frontier market for international investors.

The banks involved have previously said they would engage with the country’s financial regulator.

Additional reporting by Nqobile Dludla in Johannesburg; Editing by John Stonestreet and Louise Heavens

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