March 28, 2018 / 11:50 AM / a year ago

Zain Group in Sudanese currency swap talks with Kuwait government

KUWAIT, March 28 (Reuters) - Kuwait-based telecom operator Zain Group is in talks with the government of Kuwait to swap Sudanese pounds for hard currency, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

Remitting cash from Sudan can be difficult due to a shortage of hard currency in the country, where the pound has plummeted to record lows on the black market this year.

Zain Group Chief Executive Bader Nasser al-Kharafi told reporters in Kuwait the company could soon reach an agreement where Kuwait’s government would buy the company’s Sudanese pounds.

The government would keep those pounds in Sudan, using them for future projects or aid, he said.

Zain, which operates in about eight countries in the Middle East and Africa including Sudan and Iraq, has long faced difficulties changing revenue earned in Sudanese pounds into other currencies.

Zain Sudan “is operationally an excellent company but the impact on the currency is not in our hands. It is a political matter and we cannot control it,” Kharafi said. “But what we are trying to do is to protect the assets of the shareholders.”

Zain Sudan’s profit increased 173 percent in 2017, when measured in Sudanese pounds, but fell 29 percent in dollars.

Zain Group largely blamed the devaluation of the Sudanese pound for costing the company $82 million in group profit in 2017. (Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy; Writing by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Mark Potter)

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