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MTN, NCC given time to renegotiate fine

MTN has two months to try settle its $3.9 billion fine in Nigeria out of court.

MTN has two months to try settle its $3.9 billion fine in Nigeria out of court.

A Nigerian judge has given MTN and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) almost two months to settle a dispute over a pending $3.9 billion (R64 billion) fine levelled against the telco in the West African nation.

A dispute between the two parties was heard by the Federal High Court in Lagos this morning.

"The judge adjourned the matter to 18 March 2016 in order to enable the parties to try and settle the matter. If the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the matter will then proceed on that date," MTN confirmed in a statement this afternoon.

The saga has been ongoing since the NCC slapped the original $5.2 billion (R86 billion) fine on MTN in October 2015 for failing to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards on its Nigerian network. In early December, the fine was reduced by 25% to $3.9 billion.

In mid-December, MTN announced it would take its fight to the Nigerian courts after previous attempts to negotiate with the NCC on the size of the fine proved unsuccessful.

News that there was hope of renegotiation on the matter saw MTN's share price rally almost 8%.

Earlier this week, MTN admitted its profit in Nigeria would likely be less than a quarter of the pending fine. MTN said in a statement that the 190 billion naira (R16 billion) profit amount quoted by Nigerian publication, This Day, "is within the current estimate" for its Nigerian profit after tax for the year ended 31 December 2015.

The West African nation is MTN's biggest market and the telco has around 62.5 million subscribers there.

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