MTN Group, one of South Africa’s leading telecoms operator, could add up to $1 billion in loan repayments and dividends to its books following a long awaited nuclear deal reached by world powers and Iran last week, the firm’s investor relations officer told said.
The South African mobile operator was blocked, by sanctions imposed on Iran by the United Nations, European Union and the US, from transferring it dividends from the Middle Eastern country’s state-owned telecom, Irancell, in which it owns a 49 percent stake.
Irancell is the second biggest mobile service provider in a country of more than 80 million people. Weakness in the Iranian currency — rial — hurt Irancell’s earnings, making it difficult for it to repatriate hundreds of millions of dollars to MTN Group.
A framework deal reached between western nation and Iran regarding its nuclear power ambitions has helped unlock nearly $1 billion for MTN. The nuclear deal will curb Iran’s plan for at least 10 years and in exchange world power would lifting sanctions against the country.
“The lifting of the sanctions would then allow us to start to repatriate some of the money,” Reuters quoted Nik Kershaw, head of investor relations at MTN, saying earlier this week.
Apart from MTN, western energy companies are also eying opportunities in Iran’s oil and gas sector once the sanctions are fully lifted. Iran has the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves and second-largest natural gas reserves.
“In a post-sanctions world, on the back of a multifaceted economy beyond hydrocarbons and oil and gas, Iran can be the most exciting frontier market,” Ali Borhani, founder of Dubai-based advisory firm Incubeemea, told the Wall Street Journal.