(Releads with cenbank invite to MTN’s banks)
By Alexis Akwagyiram and Chijioke Ohuocha
LAGOS/ABUJA, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s central bank plans to meet four lenders of telecoms company MTN to discuss a dispute over a $8.1 billion fund transfer, after a court adjourned the case, a banking source said.
The central bank emailed invitations on Thursday to the Nigeria heads of Standard Chartered, Citibank, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Diamond Bank to attend a meeting on Friday, the source said.
Nigeria’s central bank has accused South Africa-based MTN of violating currency regulations by sending $8.1 billion abroad, and in August ordered the company and its banks to repatriate the funds. MTN and the banks involved have denied any wrongdoing and the banks want the central bank to refund them money charged to their accounts in the form of fines.
The central bank and the banks declined to comment on a potential meeting on Friday. A spokeswoman for MTN said she did not know of a meeting.
The source said the meeting would start at 1600 (1500 GMT) on Friday and focus on MTN’s fund transfer.
Last week, a Lagos court adjourned a hearing on the $8.1 billion dispute between MTN and the central bank until Dec. 4.
Central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele has said he was optimistic the MTN issue could be resolved.
Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market, accounting for a third of the lender’s annual core profit, but has proved to be problematic in recent years.
In a separate case, MTN faces a $2 billion tax demand from Nigeria’s attorney general, a claim which the firm has said is without merit. The Lagos court on Thursday adjourned the case against the attorney general until Dec. 3.
Africa’s biggest telecoms firm has a market valuation of roughly $12 billion and the two disputes total $10.1 billion.
South Africa’s central bank said on Wednesday that the country’s financial stability was threatened by the demands made on MTN by Nigerian authorities.
Nigeria’s central bank fined Standard Chartered 2.4 billion naira ($7.8 million) over the fund transfer; Stanbic IBTC Bank 1.8 billion naira, Citibank 1.2 billion naira and Diamond Bank 250 million naira. ($1 = 306.65 naira) (Editing by Mark Potter and Susan Fenton)