Telecommunications companies in Nigeria, including MTN Group and Airtel Africa Plc, will meet authorities to discuss the suspension of SIM-card sales pending an audit by the industry regulator of their compliance with registration rules.
“MTN Nigeria customers can continue to access all other services such as airtime and data purchases” and support, the company said in an emailed statement, adding it had complied with the directive.
The company “will join other industry stakeholders in a meeting with Isa Ali Pantami, the minister of communications and digital economy, within a week to chart a course of action,” it said.
The Nigerian Communications Commission on Thursday ordered an immediate halt to the sale, registration and activation of new SIM cards until it completed the review. It didn’t say how long the process would take.
MTN shares were down 4% as of 10:32 a.m. in Johannesburg, extending a loss of 3.8% on Thursday. MTN Nigeria Communications Plc closed down 0.8% in Lagos, and Airtel Africa was 2.7% lower in London.
MTN’s local unit is the the West African country’s biggest wireless operator, while Airtel Africa, which listed in Lagos and London last year, vies with local operator Globacom Ltd. as the country’s second-biggest carrier.
The NCC fined MTN in 2015 for failing to disconnect undocumented SIM cards as part of a security crackdown. The matter was resolved a year later when the company paid 330 billion naira ($839 million) after extensive negotiations.