MTN Group’s quarterly earnings were boosted by a strong performance in Nigeria, as the company confirmed it remains committed to floating its unit in the country despite facing a fresh bout of controversy.

In a statement, group president and CEO Rob Shuter said MTN Nigeria’s plans to list have been challenged following a demand by the country’s Central Bank to refund $8.1 billion, in addition to a $2 billion demand for back taxes, but the company still intends to hold an IPO.

Shuter’s comments follow reports suggesting MTN had cooled its intentions to list the unit in light of the recent controversy.

MTN refuted both financial claims, stating in its Q3 earnings announcement it is working “extensively” with authorities to deal with the matters.

“We remain resolute that MTN Nigeria has not committed any offences and will continue to defend this position vigorously,” the company stated.

Nigeria boosts numbers
As MTN reiterated its commitment to Nigeria, its largest but most troubled market, the company revealed the unit “had an excellent quarter” during the third quarter. MTN Nigeria’s performance was boosted by an upturn in data revenue, while its Ghanaian unit was also highlighted.

At group level, the company said subscribers increased by 2.5 million quarter-on-quarter to give it a total of 225.4 million at end-September. However, year-on-year, total subscribers dropped from 229.8 million.

The company said it also made good progress on data and digital services, adding 5 million active data subscribers and 1.7 million mobile money customers in the recent quarter.

Group service revenue grew 10 per cent year-on-year, which was ahead of the company’s medium-term target of upper single-digit growth, supported by “strong growth in voice and data revenue”, while the results were delivered in “challenging operating and currency conditions”.

MTN does not break out group profit and sales figures in quarterly updates.