A man passes an MTN board in Lagos, Nigeria.  Picture:  AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI
A man passes an MTN board in Lagos, Nigeria. Picture: AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

MTN Nigeria on Tuesday confirmed it would report profits of about $955m, which is way short of the $3.9bn it has been fined by that country’s regulator.

The steep fine shows the pressures it faces in its largest market.

MTN was fined $5.2bn by the Nigerian Communications Commission for failing to register subscribers, as requested by law. The fine was reduced to $3.9bn, and MTN is challenging the penalty in court, as it believes the size of the fine and the way it was imposed were not in accordance with the commission’s powers under the Nigerian Communications Act.

In response to a media report in Nigeria, MTN on Tuesday confirmed the 190-billion naira (R15.8bn, or about $955m) profit after tax quoted by This Day newspaper was "within the current estimate" but said it was still finalising its financial results.

MTN would not comment further because it is in a closed period.

MTN Nigeria CEO Ferdi Moolman was quoted in Nigeria’s The Leadership publication on Monday as saying that the fine could bankrupt the company as it represented 95% of its annual turnover.

"The size of the fine blows my mind.… It is huge. How do you fix it? Operating in the telecoms world has become challenging."

Mr Moolman said MTN had learnt its lessons and would work to restore its relationship with the regulator, stakeholders and its customers.

Though the group will be able to repatriate $1bn locked in Iran following the lifting of sanctions by the US and Europe, it is unclear how soon that would be.

"MTN welcomes the positive direction in which the sanctions on Iran are progressing. We will update the market at the appropriate time regarding the potential repatriation of funds from Iran," it said.