Analysts say more senior executives at MTN may have to face the music after the resignation of its group chief executive officer Sifiso Dabengwa, writes GARETH VAN ZYL.
Dabengwa is the first executive casualty at MTN after the company announced two weeks ago that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had fined it $5.2bn for failing to switch off five million unregistered SIM cards in a timely manner.
His resignation has come amid a tumble of MTN’s share price from a recent trading peak of R192.45 on Friday October 23 at 13:30 to R157 at 10:47 on Monday November 9. MTN is Nigeria’s biggest mobile network with 62 million subscribers in that country as of September, according to a quarterly update from the company.
Meanwhile, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is also investigating MTN for the way it made its announcement on Monday October 26 regarding the $5.2bn fine. Media reports about the fine surfaced hours before MTN made the SENS announcement on that day. The JSE said it is also looking into possible insider trading at MTN by studying the trades that happened before the announcement.
Dabengwa said in a statement on Monday November 9 that he stepped down in the interests of the company and shareholders because of the “most unfortunate prevailing circumstances occurring at MTN Nigeria”.
‘There has to be a fall guy’
“It was inevitable that heads would roll,” World Wide Worx managing director Arthur Goldstuck told Fin24 in his reaction to Dabengwa’s resignation.
This could be a sign that the CEO was ineffective at moving ahead with negotiations with the Nigerian regulator or that he was pushed by the board, said Goldstuck.
The way MTN has handled its communications regarding the Nigerian crisis also put the spotlight on how the company is managed and how it communicates, Goldstuck added.
“One of the big criticisms is that MTN hasn’t kept investors informed,” he said.
“It’s strategic decision-making is slow,” Goldstuck added.
But Goldstuck told Fin24 that Dabengwa’s resignation at the mobile network could result in a “shift in its entire thinking”.
Steven Ambrose, chief executive officer of research firm Strategy Worx, said it is no surprise that Dabengwa has quit. “When things go wrong, there has to be a fall guy. There has to be responsibility,” Ambrose told Fin24.
“I don’t think that MTN were being arrogant but I do think that they were somewhat remiss in their ability to understand what was going outside their control.
“And I think this is the first of a couple of high-profile resignations, to be honest,” Ambrose said.
He added that the CEO is like the “captain of the ship”.
“If the ship’s run aground, it’s ultimately the captain’s fault,” said Ambrose.
Ambrose also said he expected more senior heads to roll at MTN.
Meanwhile, Dobek Pater – a director and analyst at telecoms, IT and media research firm Africa Analysis – said he had expected senior executives at MTN’s Nigerian operations to step down first, rather than South African-based Dabengwa.
“I didn’t expect the CEO at group level to step down,” Pater told Fin24.
Pater described MTN’s $5.2bn fine in Nigeria as “excessive”. However, Nigeria is not cutting off MTN entirely as the NCC last week extended the mobile network’s licence to 2021, Pater explained.
“The fact that the NCC renewed the licence means that it’s not out to destroy MTN,” said Pater.
However, he also agreed that MTN needs to evaluate its communications regarding the Nigeria crisis.
“It’s still important to communicate. Definitely from the outset you want to be involved from a communications point of view,” he told Fin24.
Data journalism takes top prize in revamped awards
The entries to the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards were extraordinarily varied and of an excellent standard, with new categories introduced which are based on content as opposed to platforms. This year, the judges decided that two entries were equally worthy of the coveted Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.
The first co-winning entry, in the new Data Journalism category, is a set of stories by Alastair Otter and Laura Grant of Media Hack which showed how Data Journalism is shaping the future. The second co-winning entrant is Bongani Fuzile of the Daily Dispatch for his articles in the investigative category on how migrant workers were being ripped off by pension deductions (full citations below).
Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “This year we modernised the 12 categories that journalists could enter their work in and the change was embraced by entrants. In a turbulent time for media, the 2018 entries once again proved that there are excellent South African journalists delivering praiseworthy work, and we commend them for finding new and innovative ways to cover the news.”
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, says: “Vodacom is proud of its 17-year association with these prestigious awards, which make an important contribution to our society through the recognition of journalistic excellence. I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners and, as always, I’d like to pay tribute to our hardworking judges. Ryland Fisher, Mathatha Tsedu, Arthur Goldstuck, Collin Nxumalo, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Megan Rusi, Mary Papayya, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa: thank you for making these awards a continued success.”
Veteran journalist and media stalwart Ms Amina Frense is the winner of the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Lifetime Achiever Award. She has spent decades in mainstream media both locally and internationally. She is a former Managing Editor: News and Current Affairs at the SA Broadcasting Corporation. She has worked in many countries abroad as a producer and a foreign correspondent, has written two books and is also a founding member of SANEF where she still serves as a council member (full citation below).
The overall winners share the R100 000 main prize. National winners in the various categories are as follows, with each winner taking home R10 000:
The entries in this category were of an exceptionally high standard. One entrant stood out and became the unanimous winner. This journalist showed an exceptional skill for story-telling and for finding unexpected angles and unknown facts. For his stories about Musangwe’s fight for recognition, Age cheating in SA football, and Hansie Cronje revisited, the winner is Ronald Masinda, and the team of Gift Kganyago, Nceba Ntlanganiso and Charles Lombard from eSAT TV.
Cons exploit Telegram ICO
Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered dozens of highly convincing fake websites claiming to be investment sites for an initial coin offering (ICO) by the Telegram messaging service. Many of these websites appear to belong to the same group. In one case alone, tens of thousands of US dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency were stolen from victims believing they were investing in ‘Grams’, Telegram’s rumoured new currency. Telegram has not officially confirmed an ICO and has warned people about fraudulent investor sites.
In late 2017, stories started to circulate that the Telegram messaging service was launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a blockchain platform based on its TON (Telegram Open Network) technology. Unverified technical documentation was posted online, but there appears to have been no confirmation from Telegram itself. The resulting confusion seems to have allowed fraudsters to capitalise on investor interest by creating fake sites and stealing vast sums of money.
Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered dozens of such sites, possibly belonging to the same group, claiming to sell tokens for ‘Grams’ and inviting investors to pay with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, lice litecoin, dash and Bitcoin dash. A record of transactions on one site revealed that the scammers were able to steal at least $35,000 US dollars’ worth of Ethereum from investors.
The researchers found that some of the websites were so convincing that even after Telegram and others began to issue warnings, they were still able to recruit potential investors. Most use a secure connection, require registration and generate a unique online wallet for each new victim, making it harder to track the money.
Judging by the content of the fake websites, it appears they may have common ownership. For example, several have the exactly the same ‘Our Team’ section.
“ICOs are a fairly risky investment and many people don’t yet fully understand how they work, so it is not surprising that high quality fake websites, with seemingly reassuring features such as a secure connection and registration are successful at luring people in. People wishing to invest in an ICO would do well to check with the company behind it and make sure they know exactly who they are giving their money to, or they may never see it again,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice for users considering investing in an ICO:
- Check for warning signs: for example, some of the fake Telegram ICO websites had the same wrong image next to the name of Telegram’s Chief Product Officer.
- Do your homework: always check with the brand’s official site to verify the legitimacy of the investment site and, if necessary contact the company’s ICO teams before investing any money or currency.
- Use reliable security solutions such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which will warn you if you try to visit fake internet pages.