South Africa's MTN rises after world powers clinch deal with Iran

JOHANNESBURG Mon Nov 25, 2013 5:37am EST

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Shares of MTN Group (MTNJ.J) gained more than 2 percent on Monday on hopes a landmark deal on Iran's nuclear program may unlock millions of dollars the South African mobile operator has locked up in its largest Middle East market.

Six world powers, including the United States, reached the deal with Iran on Sunday to curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief.

MTN, Africa's largest mobile operator, has been unable to repatriate around $450 million from its Iranian unit because of sanctions.

Johannesburg-based MTN said in a statement it was still too early to tell the impact from the agreement, adding it was monitoring developments.

But investors were betting the deal was likely good news. Its stock added 2.1 percent to 197.76 rand by 1005 GMT.

"The agreement over the weekend had a positive impact on sentiment towards the stock, but I think one would need clarity on how that would affect MTN's operations," said Andrew Bryson, a trader at Nedbank Private Wealth in Johannesburg.

Johannesburg-based MTN operates in 22 countries in Africa and the Middle East and owns 49 percent of MTN Irancell, which contributed nearly a quarter of its 2012 revenue.

It cut its full-year target for new subscribers by nearly 10 percent, as the sanctions against Iran dampened consumer demand.

(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; editing by David Dolan)

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