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Money transfer affects MTN shares

The amount of money which South Africa’s MTN Group is alleged to have illegally moved out of Nigeria could be “outrageously higher” than an originally estimated $14 billion, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, sending its shares to more than six-year lows.

MTN officials, Nigeria’s trade minister and four lenders are to appear at a hearing in Nigeria on Thursday over the alleged illegal transfer of money out of the country.

Nigeria’s upper house of parliament agreed last month to investigate whether Africa’s top telecoms company unlawfully repatriated $13.92 billion between 2006 and 2016.

Initial investigation findings have revealed the figure is “actually outrageously higher”, Bloomberg reported, citing senator Dino Melaye, who first raised the allegation last month.

MTN has denied the allegation. The company plans to present a comprehensive response to the latest accusations on Thursday, spokesman Chris Maroleng said.

Rafiu Ibrahim, chairman of Nigeria’s senate investigative panel on alleged illegal repatriation of funds, said on Wednesday that a team of international and local accountancy experts and lawyers had been assembled to look into the matter.

Shares in MTN dropped as much as 3.2 percent levels last seen in mid-2010, before recouping some of the losses to trade 2.4 percent lower at 107.38 rand.

“Investors are nervous with what’s happening with Nigeria purely because the past history has shown us that typically the government tends to move the goal posts,” Independent Securities trader Ryan Woods said.

The allegation is the latest setback for the South African company in its most lucrative but increasingly most problematic market.

MTN this year agreed to pay a greatly reduced fine of 330 billion naira ($1.08 billion) to end a long running dispute over unregistered SIM cards.

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