Phuthuma Nhleko has assumed office as Executive Chairman of MTN following the resignation of MTN Group CEO and President Sifiso Dabengwa over the crisis in the company in Nigeria.
MTN was recently fined over $5 billion by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for its serial violation of national regulations.
In a public statement announcing his new position, which is for a period of six months, Mr. Nhleko hinted that MTN has not agreed to pay the fine.
He explained that he will head the company as Executive Chairman in order to ensure a smooth transition while the company identifies a successor for Mr. Dabengwa, whose resignation, he said, was in the interest of the company and its shareholders.
“As you are aware, I am familiar with MTN having served as a Non-Executive Director and Chairman of MTN from July 2001 until June 2002, and thereafter as an Executive Director, Group President, and CEO until March 2011,” he said. “I have subsequently chaired the Group in a Non-Executive capacity for the past two and a half years.”
He stated that in his new role over the next six months, he will proactively deal with the Nigerian regulator and other stakeholders and work with them in addressing the issues around unregistered subscribers as a matter of urgency.
“The engagement with the Nigerian authorities on the Nigerian Communications Commission fine is a priority and I would like to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to find a resolution,” he further stated, pledging to keep the public up to date where legal and regulatory guidelines allow.
He urged caution in reaction to information on the crisis that has not been released by MTN, noting such information may not be accurate and might lead to unnecessary speculation and panic.
“In this regard, the JSE (and MTN) had to take the unusual step of briefly halting trade in the company’s shares last week to calm the market after it was incorrectly reported in the media that we had agreed to pay the fine imposed on MTN Nigeria by the Nigerian Communications Commission,” Nhleko said.