Uganda deports MTN CEO

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Uganda has deported MTN's local CEO for reasons yet to be disclosed.
Uganda has deported MTN's local CEO for reasons yet to be disclosed.

MTN Uganda CEO Wim Vanhelleputte has been deported from the country. MTN confirmed his deportation early this morning, saying "MTN has not been notified of the grounds for the deportation and is working hard to establish precise reasons for the deportation".

"We are understandably concerned about these developments and are engaging with the authorities to seek understanding that would lead us to resolving this matter," the group said in a statement.

To ensure business continuity, the telco has appointed current CTO Gordian Kyomukama as acting chief executive.

"MTN Uganda is fully committed to respecting and operating within the laws of the country," MTN said.

This comes after three senior managers for MTN Uganda were also arrested and deported last month. They were chief marketing officer Olivier Prentout, head of sales and distribution Annie Bilenge Tabura and head of mobile financial services Elza Muzzolini.

In that case, MTN also said it had not been officially notified of the grounds for the arrests and deportations.

In January, Reuters reported that Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni had in a letter to the communications minister and the attorney-general, criticised the Uganda Communications Commission for slashing MTN Uganda's fee for renewing its licence. MTN Uganda was reportedly charged $58 million to renew its licence for 10 years instead of $100 million originally set for the renewal.

MTN Uganda is the country's biggest telecoms operator.

Other MTN staff outside of SA have also had trouble in the past. In November 2017, MTN Benin CEO Stephen Blewett was requested to leave the country by the government of Benin for his alleged engagement in "activities detrimental to security and public order".

This was after Benin's telecoms regulator initiated a process to review the reasons why MTN has not paid outstanding invoices on frequency fees. The frequency fees matter has since been resolved and Blewett was allowed to return to Benin in May 2018 after a six-month exile from the country.

The MTN group operates in 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East, and as of 30 September 2018, had 225.4 million subscribers in total.

MTN's share price on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange has dropped by 29.69% over the last year, according to Bloomberg data, and since the beginning of 2019, it is down by 3.4%.

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