MTN has billions tied up offshore

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MTN, Africa's largest operator, has billions tied up in operations in Syria and Iran which it is trying to repatriate as both countries continue to face challenges.

CFO Brett Goschen notes MTN has four months, under the current international arrangements, to find a solution to getting its cash out of Iran.

Goschen notes the company has been in talks with several international authorities in a bid to get its money out, an amount that is currently in the region of about $400 million, or around R4.3 billion.

In total, including dividends and loans, some $900 million - or R9.7 billion - is held up in Iran. Goschen says there are several complexities to overcome and if its current option fails, it will look at other avenues.

Iran has been beset by sanctions for well over a year because the US is convinced it was developing nuclear arms. MTN has had money tied up in what is its second-largest operation since 2012.

In the first half of the year, MTN added 1.3 million new subscribers in Iran. It has recently received a 3G licence in that country and has rolled out 2 146 towers in anticipation of being able to launch services on 3G.

Meanwhile, Goschen adds the company is also trying to repatriate money out of war-torn Syria. The amount currently totals $250 million - or around R2.6 billion.

President and CEO Sifiso Dabengwa notes the group is bidding to convert its build-operate-transfer licence in Syria to a fully-fledged licence and will use some of the money that is locked in that country to pay for the conversion.

The licence is expected to convert on 1 January, Dabengwa says. He notes it will be a 20-year licence and that the country's issues will "come to an end".

Obtaining the licence will cost MTN a year in its share of the revenue, and Dabengwa sees no reason why the company should not succeed in its bid.

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