February 24, 2015 / 2:25 PM / 5 years ago

Kuwait's Zain seeks to repatriate $280 mln from Sudan

KUWAIT, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Kuwait and Sudan are in talks to help telecom operator Zain repatriate $280 million worth of Sudanese pounds, the company’s chairman said on Tuesday.

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.

“There’s communication with the Sudan and Kuwait governments,” Zain chairman Asaad Ahmad Al-Banwan told the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Kuwait.

“The goal of this communication is to see how we can release this money. We’re trying during this year (to get the funds released),” he said, adding the amount sought for repatriation was $280 million held in Sudanese currency.

The company has also suffered due to the pound’s prolonged weakness sparked by South Sudan’s secession in 2011, which deprived Khartoum of three-quarters of its oil output and main source of foreign currency.

The pound is now trading at 5.95 to the dollar, versus 2.67 in mid-2012.

With hard currency tough to come by, Zain Sudan’s chief executive told Reuters last September that the company had been buying “local assets” to help offset rampant domestic inflation.

Zain Sudan, the country’s No.1 mobile operator by subscribers, generated $669 million in revenue in 2014, 16 percent of parent Zain’s total revenue.

The unit’s net profit last year was $98 million, down from $103 million in 2013, although in local currency terms its profit rose slightly. (Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy in Kuwait Writing by Matt Smith; Editing by Mark Potter)

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