June 26, 2019 / 8:54 AM / 2 months ago

Nigerian court adjourns tax case between MTN and attorney general

FILE PHOTO: Vehicles drive past an advertising billboard for MTN telecommunication company along a street in Abuja, Nigeria September 4, 2018 REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

LAGOS (Reuters) - A Nigerian judge on Wednesday adjourned until Oct. 29 a case to resolve a $2 billion tax dispute between South African telecoms company MTN Group and Nigeria’s attorney general.

The attorney general has demanded MTN pay the $2 billion in September. The company has said the tax demand is without merit and the attorney general has exceeded his powers in making the request.

Lawyers for the government requested the adjournment.

Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market, with 58 million users in 2018 and accounting for a third of the South African firm’s core profit. But the Nigerian business has faced challenges, ranging from the tax demand to a fine over unregistered SIM cards.

MTN Nigeria, the company’s local unit, listed in Lagos in May in a 2 trillion naira ($6.5 billion) flotation and became the second-largest stock on the bourse by market value.

The listing followed MTN Group’s agreement with Nigerian regulators to settle most of its long-running disputes.

MTN said it would sell more shares to the public and increase local ownership in MTN Nigeria once the tax row was resolved.

MTN agreed in December to make a $53 million payment to resolve a separate dispute in Nigeria after the central bank ordered the company and its lenders to bring back to Nigeria $8.1 billion it was alleged to have repatriated using improperly issued paperwork between 2007 and 2008.

The settlement ended a four-month row that had hammered MTN’s share price in Johannesburg.

Reporting by Libby George and Alexis Akwagyiram; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Toby Chopra and Edmund Blair

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