MTN Dials Up Iran Growth Despite Virus, Sanctions

Via The Iran Project, an article on MTN’s push for Iran growth in face of virus and sanctions:

MTN Group Ltd. said its Iranian business is still able to achieve strong sales growth in the short term, even as the unit battles to overcome ongoing U.S. sanctions and the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Africa’s largest wireless carrier is finding it tough to take money out of its second-biggest market by subscribers due to measures re-imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump, according to Chief Financial Officer Ralph Mupita. As a partial solution, the Johannesburg-based company allows the Iranian unit to convert earnings into loans from MTN rather than send them to the parent company, he said.

“This has placed MTN Irancell in a position where it has enough cash to continue funding its network expansion, even during these tough times,” the CFO said in an interview.

MTN has seven reported cases of employees testing positive for Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, according to Mupita. Iran has suffered the third-biggest hit in the world from the pandemic, with more than 16,000 people infected.

“We have implemented work-from-home measures and temperature screenings at our office locations,” the CFO sad. “All international travel is banned, and we are busy implementing efforts to reduce domestic travel where possible.”

MTN’s main operations across sub-Saharan Africa have been less directly affected by the virus, but the associated hit to the region’s economy and market turmoil have hammered the company’s share price. The stock fell a further 2% in early trade on Wednesday, and is at near 15-year lows.

Adverse trading conditions may impact MTN’s plans to sell assets and raise about 25 billion rand to reduce debt, Mupita said. The carrier is looking to sell down stakes in telecom-tower group IHS Holdings Ltd. and its Lagos-listed Nigerian business, while mulling further disposals.

“We have managed to reduce debt to the lowest in four years, but would like to push that even lower in the medium term,” the CFO said. “To do this, we will have to wait for more favorable market conditions.”

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020 at 5:40 pm and is filed under Iran.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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Wildcats & Black Sheep is a personal interest blog dedicated to the identification and evaluation of maverick investment opportunities arising in frontier - and, what some may consider to be, “rogue” or “black sheep” - markets around the world.

Focusing primarily on The New Seven Sisters - the largely state owned petroleum companies from the emerging world that have become key players in the oil & gas industry as identified by Carola Hoyos, Chief Energy Correspondent for The Financial Times - but spanning other nascent opportunities around the globe that may hold potential in the years ahead, Wildcats & Black Sheep is a place for the adventurous to contemplate & evaluate the emerging markets of tomorrow.