MTN hopes for US-Iran thaw to free its cash
MTN is hoping for better US-Iranian relations to repatriate around $450m from Iran.
JOHANNESBURG - MTN Group would welcome better US/Iranian relations as it has been unable to repatriate around $450 million from a unit in Iran due to sanctions.
MTN, Africa's largest mobile phone operator, said its funds had been blocked since early last year because of Washington's sanctions against Tehran.
Company spokesperson Nik Kershaw said, "Our primary focus remains to ensure that we are sanction-compliant with everything we do there, but obviously it would be a great outcome if things did improve."
MTN owns 49 percent of local unit MTN Irancell, which contributed nearly 10 percent of its 2012 revenue.
Iran's Ghanoon newspaper on Tuesday quoted MTN Irancell executive Alireza Ghalambar Dezfouli as saying MTN had been unable to repatriate around $450 million from Iran.
Kershaw confirmed the money in Iran was around that amount, although he could not immediately give an exact figure because of exchange rates.
Around $120 million of that is a dividend owed to MTN with the remainder made up of loans due to be repaid back to MTN.
There have been signs of a tentative reconciliation between Washington and Tehran since the June election of President Hassan Rouhani, widely seen as a pragmatist and a centrist.
The US described two days of nuclear negotiations with Iran this month as the most serious and candid to date after Western diplomats said Tehran hinted it was ready to scale back sensitive atomic activities to secure urgent sanctions relief.