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MultiChoice denies squabble with Nigerian authorities

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Pay-TV group MultiChoice has rejected claims that it is feuding with Nigerian revenue authorities over an alleged breach of agreements and denying officials access to its records for auditing.

MultiChoice was reacting to media reports that the Nigerian Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) had ordered banks to freeze the group’s banking accounts and recover $4.4 billion (R63 billion) for the alleged breach.

However, MultiChoice notified shareholders yesterday afternoon that the matter is apparently based “on unfounded allegations that MultiChoice Nigeria has not fully disclosed all existing subscribers to authorities”.

It adds: “We have engaged openly with FIRS and the engagements are ongoing in a transparent and constructive manner. We believe that this matter will be amicably resolved. Our operations are continuing in Nigeria.”

According to MultiChoice, the group has not received formal notification of this matter; however, it advised shareholders that the company is “aware of reports in the media regarding an ongoing tax matter with FIRS”.

The Johannesburg-headquartered MultiChoice pioneered pay-TV in Nigeria, launching the first digital satellite broadcasting service in 1993.

The company currently employs over 1 000 employees, while indirectly supporting over 20 000 more jobs in Nigeria.

Nigeria remains one of MultiChoice’s key markets out of the 50 countries in which it has operations.

In the last financial year ended March 2021, MultiChoice announced plans to pump a R4.4 billion investment into Nigerian betting firm BetKing to increase its shareholding. This followed an initial R1.3 billion investment in the online betting firm last year.

BetKing is one of the leading digital and sports entertainment platforms focused on the African continent.

In the period under review, MultiChoice business in Africa grew its 90-day active linear pay-TV subscriber base by 8% year-on-year, or by 800 000 subscribers, despite a challenging macro-economic environment and ongoing consumer pressure.

Revenue was up 11% (14% organic) to R17.2 billion, which the company said was supported by solid subscriber growth and inflationary price increases implemented in most markets.

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