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UPDATE 1-MTN met deadline to respond to $2 bln Nigerian tax demand -judge

Alexis Akwagyiram

(Adds adjournment date, details)

LAGOS, May 7 (Reuters) - South African telecoms firm MTN met a deadline to respond to a $2 billion tax demand from the country's attorney general, a Nigerian judge ruled on Tuesday, after state lawyers had said the company had failed to do so.

Nigeria's attorney general handed MTN the $2 billion demand for backdated taxes in September, but the company has said the claim is without merit and that the attorney general had exceeded his powers in making the demand.

Lawyers representing MTN and Nigeria's attorney general traded legal arguments at a court in the commercial capital Lagos on Tuesday over whether or not the telecoms firm responded to the tax bill within the three month period stipulated under Nigerian law.

The judge said MTN had responded in 19 days, and adjourned the case's next hearing to June 26.

MTN is Africa's biggest telecoms firm and Nigeria is its largest market, accounting for a third of its annual core profit. However, the west African country has proven to be problematic for the company in the last few years. (Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; writing by Paul Carsten; editing by Jason Neely, Emelia Sithole-Matarise)