Johannesburg is a long way from Tehran. But celebrations in the Iranian capital after an historic nuclear agreement framework last week were echoed in the Joburg headquarters of MTN, a mobile operator that commands the biggest market share in Africa.
MTN operates in 21 countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, including in Iran, where it holds a 49% stake in Irancell, the nation’s second-largest operator. But sanctions limiting economic ties with Iran hampered MTN’s ability to repatriate any money back home.
“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,” Nik Kershaw, who runs investor relations at MTN, told Reuters this week. When sanctions lift, it will finally be possible to bring that money back to South Africa.
Geopolitics has been good to MTN in recent weeks. In addition to the Iran deal, a peaceful transition of power in Abuja also gave MTN’s stock a boost. MTN is the largest operator in Nigeria.