* Investors worried about rial impact on profit
* Iran currency down a third in 2 weeks
* MTN shares down nearly 5 pct this month
By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura
JOHANNESBURG, Oct 8 The impact of Iran's
currency slide has reached beyond its borders, hitting shares of
MTN Group, the South African mobile operator that
derives nearly a tenth of its revenue from the Middle Eastern
MTN, which has been unable to repatriate profits from its
Irancell unit because of Western sanctions on Iran, flagged in
August that further rial weakness would deflate its second-half
Its shares were down 3.7 percent at 152.06 rand in afternoon
trade in Johannesburg, bringing its losses this month to nearly
The rial has lost about a third of its value against the
U.S. dollar in the last two weeks as U.S.-led sanctions cut the
country's ability to earn hard currency from oil exports.
MTN operates in 21 countries across Africa and the Middle
East, including a 49 percent stake in Irancell.
"It's just that there will be foreign exchange losses that
will be included in the earnings number for the year, that's the
main concern," said one Johannesburg-based portfolio manager,
who declined to be identified.
The rial has collapsed two-thirds in little more than one
year in the open market but the government's official rate has
remained the same since January.
"The unofficial rate trades well below the official rate.
The fear is always that if the official rate drops to the black
market rate, then MTN will take a knock in their report," said
one analyst, who also did not want to be named.
MTN said in August it was in talks with South African and
U.S. officials about moving money out of the country. The
company's chief executive said at the time it had been unable to
take cash out of the business for at least six months.
MTN is being sued by rival Turkcell for $4.2
billion in a U.S. court, saying it used bribery and lobbied
South Africa to support Tehran's military in return for a 2005
cellular licence in Iran that was originally awarded to the
MTN has denied the charges.
(Reporting by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; editing by David Dolan)