(Corrects Oct 22 story to show Iran contributed nearly 10 pct
of 2012 revenue, not 24 percent)
JOHANNESBURG Oct 22 Better U.S.-Iranian
relations would be very welcome for South African mobile phone
operator MTN Group as it has been unable to repatriate
around $450 million from a unit in Iran due to sanctions, a
company spokesman said.
Johannesburg-based MTN, Africa's largest mobile phone
operator, said its funds had been blocked since early last year
because of Washington's sanctions against Tehran.
"Our primary focus remains to ensure that we are
sanction-compliant with everything we do there," said spokesman
Nik Kershaw. "But obviously it would be a great outcome if
things did improve."
MTN owns 49 percent of local unit MTN Irancell, which
contributed nearly 10 percent of its 2012 revenue.
Iran's Ghanoon newspaper on Tuesday quoted MTN Irancell
executive Alireza Ghalambar Dezfouli as saying MTN had been
unable to repatriate around $450 million from Iran.
Kershaw confirmed the money in Iran was around that amount,
although he could not immediately give an exact figure because
of exchange rates.
Around $120 million of that is dividends owed to MTN with
the remainder made up of loans due to be repaid to the South
African company, he said.
There have been signs of a tentative reconciliation between
Washington and Tehran since the June election of President
Hassan Rouhani, widely seen as a pragmatist and a centrist.
The United States described two days of nuclear negotiations
with Iran this month as the most serious and candid to date
after Western diplomats said Tehran hinted it was ready to scale
back sensitive atomic activities to secure urgent sanctions
(Reporting by David Dolan in Johanesburg and Yeganeh Torbati in
Dubai; editing by David Evans)