Sunday, 22 September, 2019

MTN could struggle to get R3 billion out Iran thanks to Trump

A worker attends to a customer at an MTN shop at mall in Johannesburg South Africa- Credit REUTERS  Siphiwe Sibeko A worker attends to a customer at an MTN shop at mall in Johannesburg South Africa- Credit REUTERS Siphiwe Sibeko
Patty Aguilar | 10 May, 2018, 14:00

Trump had announced on Tuesday that the U.S. would reintroduce economic sanctions on Iran, which were lifted under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement.

MTN Group Ltd. said efforts to repatriate about 200 million euros ($237 million) from its Iranian unit will become tougher after U.S. President Donald Trump reinstated economic sanctions on the Islamic republic.

MTN says that during 2018, the group repatriated approximately 88 million euro (R1.3 billion) from MTN Irancell, including 61 million euro (R914 million) relating to the full 2017 dividend due to MTN, as well as a further 27 million euro (R405 million) of historic dividends.

"We will continue to monitor the situation including the response of the Iranian authorities and the other JCPOA members", it said.

After consulting United States "friends" from across the Middle East, Trump said, "it is clear to me that we can not prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement".

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According to MTN, the remaining balance due to MTN was approximately Euro 200 million. If European countries such as Germany and France remained committed to Iran's nuclear deal, MTN would still be able to repatriate Iranian funds by exchanging them for euros and then rands.

Excelsia Capital analyst Mark Narramore said if Irancell's dividends were trapped in that country it could weigh on MTN's dividends at a group level, though the dividend would be partly protected by the improving performance in Nigeria.

However, US president Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he was not having it, calling the agreement a "rotten deal" and saying instead that stronger restrictions on Iran were needed.

Iran is MTN's second-largest market with 43 million customers at the end of 2017. Voice revenue remained under pressure and declined by nearly 13% year-on-year.

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