South Africa's MTN swings into first annual loss in 20 years

PUBLISHED: Thu, 02 Mar 2017 08:05:08 GMT

Africa’s biggest mobile phone operator MTN Group swung into a hefty $108 million annual loss on Thursday, its first in two decades, hit by a regulatory fine in Nigeria and unfavourable currency moves.

MTN said its headline loss came in at 1.4 billion rand ($108 million), or 77 cents per share, in the year to end-December compared with headline earnings of 13.6 billion rand, or 746 cents per share, a year earlier.

MTN agreed to pay a fine of 330 billion naira ($1.1 billion), reduced from $5.2 billion, in June last year after a prolonged legal battle to end a dispute in Nigeria over missing a deadline to cut off unregistered SIM cards.

The company said the fine wiped 10.5 billion rand ($768 million) — 500 cents per share — from headline earnings, South Africa’s main measure of profit.

Africa’s most populous nation and biggest economy, Nigeria, is MTN’s most lucrative but increasingly problematic market.

MTN is under investigation by Nigerian lawmakers for allegedly illegally repatriating $14 billion between 2006 and 2016, the second major dispute analysts have said exposes the inherent risk of investing in frontier markets.

MTN has denied any wrongdoing.

Founded with Pretoria’s help after the end of white rule in 1994, MTN is seen as one of post-apartheid South Africa’s biggest commercial successes but clashes with regulators in recent years have exposed governance issues and hobbled growth.

($1 = 13.0003 rand)

(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Ed Stoddard)

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