MTN eyes $1bn windfall from Iranian nuclear deal

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

South Africa-based telecommunications company, MTN Group, has said it will be able to transfer about $1 billion in accumulated dividends and a loan repayment from its Iranian unit if the sanctions against Tehran are lifted.

MTN owns 49 percent of state-controlled Irancell but has been prohibited from sending money back to South Africa from Iran because of the sanctions imposed by the United Nations in 2006. The United States had in 1979 imposed sanctions on Iran which it tightened in 1995.

“We have in total an equivalent of about $1 billion, which is both a loan repayment from Irancell due back to MTN, as well as accumulated dividends,” said Nik Kershaw, MTN’s head of investor relations.

Kershaw noted that if the sanctions were lifted, MTN would be able to repatriate some of the money.

Iran and six world powers have negotiated a framework for an agreement that ensures controls on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

MTN has been criticised for its activities in the Iranian telecoms sector. The US-based advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) launched a campaign in 2012 calling for the South African country to reduce its operations in Iran.  The group charges that MTN was providing equipment “enabling the Iranian government to track and locate cellphone users which it says is a violation of human rights”.

However, MTN Human Resources Head Paul Norman denied that the company assisted Iran in monitoring the political activists. “MTN’s role in Iran is mostly as a technical partner. “Whatever equipment MTN has acquired for Irancell was for normal business reasons. This is the same software we utilize at other MTN operations.”
Source: Ventures 8 April 2015