South Africa’s MTN fears sanctions may hinder profits repatriation from Iran

South Africa’s MTN fears sanctions may hinder profits repatriation from Iran
An MTN mobile shop in South Africa.
By bne IntelliNews May 10, 2018

MTN Group, one of Africa’s biggest mobile operators, has said it will struggle to repatriate profits from its Iranian subsidiary MTN-Irancell if heavy sanctions are reimposed on Iran following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Iran Labour News Agency reported on May 9.

South Africa-based MTN’s Irancell is Iran’s second-largest mobile operator and has investments in several companies including the country’s answer to Uber and an Amazon copycat enterprise. The company has also invested heavily in upgrading Iranian telecoms with joint deals for laying fibre-optic internet infrastructure in Tehran and Isfahan.

MTN said it feared that the likely upcoming sanctions from Washington will cause a remaining balance of €200mn in profits to get stuck in Iran if the current schedule for repatriating the funds is not brought forward.

“We will continue to monitor the situation, including the response of the Iranian authorities,” MTN said in a statement.

The company said it has repatriated €88mn to date in 2018 including €61mn relating to the 2017 dividend due to MTN Group as well as an additional €27mn of historic dividends. In March, the wireless operator said it expected the last part of earmarked cash to be sent and received by September.

MTN-Irancell reportedly has more than 50mn users. It is the most active mobile operator when it comes to the implementation of new broadcast technologies.

Following US President Donald Trump’s announcement that the US is to make a hard exit from the nuclear accord, US National Security Advisor and foreign policy hawk John Bolton told reporters that the US Treasury Department would allow up to 180 days for foreign companies that do business with Iran to end their contracts or face sanctions. 

All eyes are now on Europe which has vowed to salvage the nuclear deal. The EU has vowed to take steps which would immunise European companies from US sanctions.

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