Here are three big stories from Africa’s business and policy landscape you (probably) didn’t miss but should keep in mind this week:

MultiChoice settles tax dispute with Nigeria for $37.3 million

Last week, the long-running tax dispute between MultiChoice, Africa’s largest pay TV operator, and the Nigerian government finally came to an end. After nearly three years of investigations, audits, and lawsuits, MultiChoice has agreed to pay a tax settlement of $37.3 million (₦35.4 billion or R475 million) to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the country’s tax authority. This is a significant reduction from the initial tax claim of $1.27 billion (₦1.8 trillion or R63 billion) that the FIRS issued to MultiChoice in July 2021.

In 2021, the dramatic tax dispute unfolded between MultiChoice, the South African entertainment giant, and the Nigerian Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) when the FIRS accused MultiChoice of owing a staggering ₦1.8 trillion (approximately R63 billion at the time) in unpaid taxes, alleging the company hadn’t paid VAT since its Nigerian launch. This prompted the FIRS to freeze MultiChoice’s bank accounts in July 2021, causing significant disruption to the company’s operations.

MultiChoice, which owns popular brands such as DStv, GOtv, Showmax, and SuperSport, denied the allegations and challenged the tax claim in court, arguing that it had complied with all tax obligations and cooperated with the FIRS. In March 2022, the two parties reached an out-of-court settlement, agreeing to conduct a forensic systems audit of MultiChoice’s accounts to determine the accurate tax liability.

The audit, which was expected to be completed within six months, took longer than anticipated due to the complexity of the issues. However, after lengthy negotiations and legal proceedings, a settlement has been reached. While the initial accusation was for a hefty ₦1.8 trillion, the final negotiated amount settled upon stands at ₦35.4 billion (around R475 million), a significant reduction from the original claim. The settlement marks the end of one of the most contentious tax disputes in Nigeria’s history, and a major victory for MultiChoice, which generates about 34% of its total revenue from Nigeria, its largest market in Africa.

TotalEnergies to exit Nigerian onshore oil

TotalEnergies, one of the world’s largest energy companies, has announced its intention to sell its minority stake in a major Nigerian onshore oil venture, following a similar move by Shell last month. The company’s CEO Patrick Pouyanne revealed this plan during a presentation of the company’s financial results for 2023.

The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) is a joint venture between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (55%), Shell (30%), TotalEnergies (10%), and Eni (5%). It operates 13 onshore oil blocks in the Niger Delta, with a total production capacity of about 950,000 barrels per day. However, the venture has faced numerous challenges over the years, including frequent oil spills, pipeline vandalism, oil theft, community protests, legal disputes, and regulatory uncertainties. 

Pouyanne said that TotalEnergies was looking to restructure its portfolio and focus on its core businesses, especially in the areas of renewable energy and low-carbon solutions. He said that producing oil in the Niger Delta, a region plagued by environmental degradation, social unrest, and criminal activities, was not in line with the company’s health, security, and environmental policies. “We want to divest our share of SPDC, and we are looking to reshape the portfolio,” he said. “Fundamentally it’s because producing this oil in the Niger Delta is not in line with our [Health, Security, and Environmental] policies, it’s a real difficulty.”

Access Bank CEO Herbert Wigwe dies in a helicopter crash

Herbert Wigwe, the group chief executive of Access Bank, one of Nigeria’s largest banks, was among the six people killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Friday night, according to authorities and the banking group. Among the victims were Herbert Wigwe’s wife and son, and Abimbola Ogunbanjo, the former chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group. The identities of the other two passengers and the cause of the crash have not been confirmed yet as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continue investigating the incident. 

Herbert Wigwe, the late group chief executive of Access Holdings, was not only a prominent banker and entrepreneur but also a visionary leader who influenced the business ecosystem in Nigeria and beyond. Through strategic acquisitions and partnerships, he transformed Access Bank, a small commercial bank he co-founded in 2002, into Access Holdings, Nigeria’s largest lender by assets and Africa’s leading bank by customer base. Wigwe’s vision was not limited to Nigeria or Africa. He sought to build a globally connected community of ecosystems inspired by Africa for the world. He established Access Bank’s presence in 12 countries across three continents and forged strategic alliances with global players such as Microsoft, Mastercard, and WorldRemit. He also initiated the Access Conference, a biennial event that brought together global leaders to discuss the major challenges facing humanity. Access Holdings, has issued a statement expressing its condolences to the families of the deceased and announcing that it will appoint an acting CEO soon.

The other business leader lost in the crash, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, also known as Bamofin, was the former Group Chairman of Nigerian Exchange Group Plc (NGX Group), the non-operating holding company that emerged from the demutualization of The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). He was also the managing partner of the renowned law firm of Chris Ogunbanjo LP, where he had extensive experience in commercial law, capital markets, shipping, and mergers and acquisitions.

ICYMI: Market roundup

  • Nigeria’s equities market moved downwards over a 5-day trading week, with the NGX All-Share Index depreciating by 2.5% to close at 101,858.37 points. The top gainers were Meyer Plc. (60.70%), Juli Plc. (44.29%), Geregu Power Plc (19.00%), Cornerstone Insurance Plc (17.37%), and May and Baker Nigeria Plc (11.75%). The top decliners were Eterna plc (-18.78%), Abbey Mortgage Bank plc (-18.39%), Unity Bank plc (-17.79%), Mutual Benefit Assurance plc (-17.57%), and Sterling Financial Holdings Company Plc (-15.58%).
  • The naira closed the week at ₦ 1451.36/$1 on Friday at the investor’s and Exporters’ window.
  • Brent crude closed the week at $81.69 while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude closed at $76.55
  • The global cryptocurrency market cap stood at $ 1.8 trillion, as of 6 a.m. Monday, the 12th of February. Bitcoin stood at $48,164.82, a 12.97%, increase over the week, Ethereum also increased by 9.17% to trade at $2,500.98 Binance coin also increased by 6.15% over the week, to trade at $320.51.  
  • Nigerian online teaching platform Klas raised $1 Million in pre-seed funding led by Ingressive Capital, with participation from Techstars, HoaQ, and several angel investors.
  • Last Thursday, Remoteli, a Ghana-based tech talent startup that connects African tech talents with remote workplace services, raised £250,000 in pre-seed funding ($315 K) to scale operations and expand across Africa.

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