Guinea says seizes MTN facilities over payment row

CONAKRY (Reuters) – The government of Guinea has seized facilities belonging to South African mobile operator MTN in a row over payment of a fee of about 15 million euros, according to a statement seen by Reuters on Thursday.\r\n

A decree signed by Guinea President Alpha Conde said the government had decided to requisition all personnel, equipment, facilities and assets of the company from May 2, until the dispute is settled.

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“The Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority will provisionally administer the company until the final resolution of the dispute,” the decree, which had no date, said.

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MTN said it was negotiating with the government.

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“We are confident that both parties will reach an amicable solution that will be in the best interest of all the stakeholders affected, including the millions of MTN subscribers in Guinea,” Rich Mkhondo, corporate affairs executive at MTN Group said on Thursday.

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MTN, the West African nation’s leading mobile operator with 2 million subscribers, operates under the Areeba brand in Guinea.

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Guinean authorities warned MTN last week that it would suspend the operator’s licence if a row over payments due to the government after MTN’s 2007 acquisition of a local operator were not resolved by April 29.

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MTN Guinea contributed 3 percent of MTN’s West and Central Africa region total subscribers of 53 million in the year to end-December 2009. MTN doesn’t reveal Guinea revenue and profit figures.

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MTN shares were down 0.5 percent at 142.21 rand by 1229 GMT, outperforming a 1.04 percent weaker Johannesburg’s Top-40 index.