November 14, 2018 / 9:34 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Investors turn cautious on report Nigeria could reduce MTN's $10 bln fine

(Adds details, updates shares)

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Shares in South Africa’s MTN Group gave up early gains triggered by a media report on Wednesday that Nigerian authorities could reduce the $10.1 billion sum they are demanding from the telecoms company in a dispute.

Nigerian newspaper Vanguard, without naming its sources, said Nigeria’s government, working through the central bank, may have concluded arrangements to cut a $8.1 billion fine imposed on MTN to $800 million. However, it also said there was stiff opposition in the Senate to its plan.

A spokeswoman for MTN declined to comment on the report and referred to a statement issued at the end of October in which the company said it continued to engage with authorities to find a resolution to the dispute.

A spokesman at Nigeria’s central bank said he was not aware of any MTN deal.

MTN’s shares initially rose more than 7 percent on the report that the fine could be reduced, but later gave up most of their gains to trade up 0.15 percent at 81.16 rand by 0851 GMT.

“None of these announcements have been officially made form MTN themselves ... The market is just waiting for that confirmation,” Global Trader head of trading Nilan Morar said when asked why the mobile firm’s stock had pulled back.

Nigeria’s central bank on Aug. 29 ordered MTN and its lenders to bring $8.1 billion back into Nigeria that it alleges the company sent abroad in breach of foreign exchange regulations.

In addition, MTN faces a separate $2 billion tax bill from authorities in Nigeria.

Vanguard quoted Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, chairman of the Senate committee on banking, insurance and other financial institutions, as saying the committee wanted more information on the plan and would immediately demand a report from the central bank. (Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg and Tiisetso Motsoeneng in Johannesburg and Chijioke Ohuocha in Abuja Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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