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MTN Group repatriates $280m dividend from Nigeria

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South Africa’s MTN Group has repatriated its last year’s dividend of $280 million (R4.2 billion) from its local unit in Nigeria.
The company reported the payout recently during the release of preliminary financial results for six months to June 30, 2021.

The funds from Nigeria are part of approximately $650 million (R9.3 billion) in cash the pan-African telecoms giant returned from its subsidiaries.

MTN had been struggling to get dividends out of its subsidiaries due to the challenges of securing foreign currency in Nigeria and some other markets where it operates.

As a result, MTN was forced to suspend dividend payout for the 2020 financial year. The company also cited other reasons for the suspension, such as the timing of proceeds from an ongoing asset realisation programme (ARP) and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Cash upstreaming from Nigeria remained challenging in terms of securing foreign currency in the market. During 2020, we upstreamed the equivalent of approximately R286 million from Nigeria, with approximately R4.2 billion yet to be repatriated as of 31 December 2020,” the company had said in March.

The group has now fully secured its cash dividend from Nigeria, in what is one of the two positive developments concerning MTN that will come as a relief to shareholders.

The group’s complete half-year results are expected to be released on August 12 and it has told investors to expect between 75 per cent to 85 per cent drop in profit or earnings per share (EPS). This is due to an impairment charge involving its Yemeni business and the decoupling of its operation in Syria.

The sale of MTN Group’s 75 per cent stake in MTN Syria is part of ongoing attempts to exit markets in the Middle East over the next three to five years, with a plan to fully focus on core African markets.

MTN plans to raise about R15 billion ($1 billion) from shareholding sales in markets outside Africa, proceeds which will be used to reduce its huge debt of nearly R50 billion ($3.5 billion) for the year to December 2020 as well as allocate more capital investments in Africa by 2025.

In Nigeria, MTN, through its local unit, has earmarked N600 billion ($1.5 billion) over the next three years to expand broadband access in the country.

For MTN Nigeria, half-year 2021 results show that service revenue increased by 24.1 percent year-on-year, despite the number of its mobile subscribers declining by 7.6 million (nearly 10%).

“Operationally, our mobile subscribers closed H1 at 68.9 million, down 9.9% from December 2020. This was due to the regulatory restrictions on new SIM sales and activations, which was lifted on 19 April 2021,” MTN Nigeria’s CEO, Karl Toriola, said on an analyst call.

While user numbers fell, MTN Nigeria company managed to increase service revenue to N790.3 billion (about R27 billion, $1.9 billion) driven by a surge in data usage.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) rose 27.6 per cent to N417.2 billion ($1 billion) while transaction volume for mobile money increased by 280.8per cent year-on-year to 55.6 million. Its total MoMo active subscribers reached 6.1 million,” the financial statement said.

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External reserves sustains downward trend, sheds $337m in 2wks

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Nigeria’s external reserves fell by $337 million in the first two weeks of August, maintaining its declining trend since the middle of last month.

Data from the Central Bank of Nigeria showed that the external reserves fell to $38.882 billion on Thursday August 11th, 2022, from $39.219 billion at the end of July 2022.

This indicates that the external reserves has lost $563 million since July 18, when it commenced the latest downward trend.

Prior to July 18, the external reserves had maintained a 40 days upward trend, rising by $976 million to $39.445 billion from $38.421 billion on June 6th, buoyed by rise in the price of crude oil, which accounts for over 80 per cent of the nation’s foreign exchange  earnings.

However, analysts at Financial Derivatives Company Limited, FDC, attributed the declining fortunes of the reserves since July 18 to increased dollar sales by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, in its bid to stabilise the exchange rate.

While projecting further decline in the external reserves, they however maintained that the increased dollar supply by the apex bank will lead to appreciation of the naira at the official and parallel market.

Making this projection in the FDC Bi-Monthly Economic Bulletin, they said: “The depletion on the reserves was majorly due to CBN’s supply of foreign exchange to stabilise the currency.

“The external reserves is expected to continue its downward trend as the CBN intensifies its efforts to stabilise the currency by supplying foreign exchange to the I & E (Investors and Exporters) window.

“Because of the country’s low oil production levels, high oil prices may have less of an impact on the country’s external reserves.

“A constant depletion of the external reserves is likely to discourage the CBN from supplying foreign exchange in the foreign exchange market. This could further stoke currency depreciation as demand outpaces supply.”

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Nigeria loses N101bn worth of oil, says OPEC

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Nigeria’s crude oil production plunged by 2.3 million barrels in July 2022 when compared to what the country produced in the preceding month of June, data from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries showed on Thursday.

In its latest Monthly Oil Market Report for August 2022, OPEC stated that crude oil production figures based on direct communication indicated that Nigeria’s output dropped by an average of 74,000 barrels per day in July.

This implies that for the 31 days in July, the country lost about 2.3 million barrels of crude oil. The organisation further stated that the average cost of Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil, during the month under review was $105.12/barrel.

By losing 2.3 million barrels in July this year, it means Nigeria’s oil earnings fell by about $241.1m or N101.13bn (at the official exchange rate of N419.37/$) in the month under review.

Data from OPEC showed that Nigeria’s oil production in June 2022 was 1.158 million barrels per day, but this dropped to 1.084 million barrels per day in July.

The country had produced 1.024 million barrels per day in May this year, according to figures released by OPEC on Thursday.

The Federal Government, operators and experts have consistently fingered crude oil theft in the Niger Delta as the major reason for Nigeria’s poor output and its continued failure to meet the monthly oil production quota approved by OPEC.

The Chief Executive Officer, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr. Muda Yusuf, blamed the challenges in the oil sector on the high level of insecurity across the country.

This, he said, had continued to discourage investors in the sector, leading to lower production of crude oil and lower earnings for Nigeria despite the increased cost of crude.

He said, “Investors in the oil and gas sector continue to lament the challenges posed by insecurity, oil theft, unstable policies and inappropriate fiscal regimes.

“The downstream sector has continued to be weighed down by the pricing regimes and the regulatory environments which have continued to dim the growth prospects in the sector.”

Meanwhile OPEC stated that crude oil prices dipped in July, as against their costs in June, adding that crude in OPEC Reference Basket fell by $9.17 or 7.8 per cent month-on-month in July to average $108.55/barrel.

“Oil futures prices remained highly volatile in July, amid a sharp drop in liquidity. The ICE Brent front month declined $12.38 or 10.5 per cent in July to average $105.12/barrel and NYMEX WTI declined by $14.96 or 13.1 per cent to average $99.38/barrel,” the global oil cartel stated.

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Elon Musk says Twitter hiding key witnesses in bot battle

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Elon Musk got another $7 billion from friends and investors to buy Twitter

Elon Musk is accusing Twitter Inc. of hiding key witnesses in their legal battle over whether he must consummate a $44 billion buyout of the company, according to people familiar with the allegations.

Musk contends the social media company isn’t producing the names of employees specifically responsible for evaluating how much of Twitter’s customer base is made up of spam and robot accounts, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Musk’s lawyers have asked the judge in the case to force Twitter to identify the workers so the defense can get their records and question them, the people said.

A letter asking Delaware Chancery Court Judge Kathaleen St. J. McCormick to compel Twitter to hand over the names was filed Tuesday under seal. Under the court’s rules, Twitter’s attorneys have five business days to decide what should be redacted from the filing as proprietary information.

A Twitter spokesman declined to comment on the filing.

Tesla Share Sale
The letter comes as the Tesla Inc. co-founder said Tuesday he is selling $6.9 billion of Tesla shares to avoid a sudden sale in the event he is forced to go ahead with the deal to acquire Twitter. That has prompted some analysts to predict the billionaire may settle the case.

So far Twitter has handed over the names of “records custodians,” who aren’t as familiar with the data at issue, the people said. Musk wants McCormick to force Twitter to come up with the names of the employees charged with monitoring those accounts, they said.

Both sides have issued a torrent of subpoenas to banks, investors and lawyers involved in the teetering transaction as they seek ammunition for an Oct. 17 trial.

“It’s another salvo in the discovery wars that are common in this kind of litigation,” said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who specializes in securities and merger and acquisition law. “Both sides are jockeying for position by targeting different information.”

War of the Bots

Twitter’s lawyers say they’ll need only four days in court to prove Musk is using questions about spam and bot accounts as a pretext to walk away from the deal. The company said it has turned over all its information about those accounts and that it intends to make Musk pay the $54.20 per share he originally agreed to.

Musk counters in court filings that Twitter’s handover of the that material hasn’t been robust and that the company has failed to produce evidence that spam bots account for fewer than 5% of its active users, as it has said in regulatory filings. He argues this gives him a legitimate basis for canceling the buyout.

He alleges Twitter’s disclosures show that the actual number of monetizable daily active users, or mDAU as the industry calls it, is 65 million less than the 238 million Twitter has claimed. He says Twitter also misrepresents how many of those users view advertising, the company’s main source of revenue. By his estimate, fewer than 16 million users see the majority of ads and should be counted as monetizable.

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