South African Mobile Phones firm MTN Group, said Nigeria was pushing back a Monday deadline for it to pay a $5.2 billion acceptable for failing to take off unregistered SIM cards until talks with authorities have concluded.
The planned fine has sent MTN’s stock price plunging by greater than a fifth since it was announced on Oct. 26 and prompted the resignation of the CEO.
According to Quartz, MTN, that has asked former leader Phuthuma Nhleko to look at the charge for a few months, needs to offer the fine reduced and has been in discussions with higher-ranking officials in the Nigerian Communications Commission and also the Nigerian presidency in the past a fortnight.
“Shareholders are advised that the Nigerian authorities have, without prejudice, agreed that the imposed fine will not be payable until the negotiations have already been concluded,” MTN said in the statement on Monday.
In addition, Nigeria continues to be pushing operators to make sure that the identity of these subscribers, concerned that unregistered SIM cards were useful for criminal offenses in the country facing an insurgency by Islamic militant group Boko Haram.
The fine came months after Muhammadu Buhari was swept to the helm of Africa’s biggest oil producer, pledging tougher regulation as well as a fight against corruption.
“The truth that they have pushed back the deadline shows that they’re seriously negotiating and perhaps we’re able to go to a reprieve,” said Imara SP Reid’s analyst Sibonginkosi Nyanga in Johannesburg.
Nhleko, who led the organization for nine years before stepping down this season, has met with Nigerian authorities to continue the discussions, MTN said.
“These discussions include matters of non-compliance along with the remedial measures that might have to be adopted to address this,” the MTN said.