Telecom giant MTN lists 2016 losses from Nigeria fine, forex

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — African telecommunications giant MTN warned shareholders Monday to expect big losses caused by a $1 billion regulatory fine in Nigeria, damaging foreign exchange rates and a share offering to promote black empowerment in South Africa.

A statement from the South Africa-based company said it would announce full-year losses for 2016 on Thursday.

MTN said it expects to post a basic headline loss per share of 74 to 81 South African cents and a basic loss per share of between 137 and 151 cents. That compares to 2015 headline earnings of 746 cents a share and earnings per share of 1,109 cents.

It attributed the biggest loss of 455 cents a share to the fine in Nigeria, its biggest market. MTN Nigeria was fined for having 5.2 million active but unregistered SIM cards. Two of the unregistered cards were used in the kidnapping of a former Nigerian Cabinet minister.

Nigerian authorities issued several warnings to telecommunications companies expressing concern that unregistered cards were being used by criminals, including the Boko Haram Islamic extremist group, which uses cell phones to detonate bombs. MTN Nigeria had to cut off some 11 million customers.

Professional fees related to settling the fine would bring losses of about 73 cents a share, the statement said. The group hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who negotiated the fine down from $3.9 billion.

MTN also cited losses on investments in Africa Internet Holdings, Middle East Internet Holdings and Iran Internet Group.

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