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EghtesadOnline: South Africa’s MTN, which has been prevented by US sanctions from repatriating profits from its Irancell partnership, is reinvesting its profits in Iran, the MTN-Irancell CEO said.

Bijan Abbasi Arand was speaking on Monday during an event held in Tehran on the occasion of the 13th anniversary of the firm’s launch of mobile services in Iran.

“Our South African partner MTN is here to stay, despite US sanctions against Tehran,” Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.

Noting that MTN is among major shareholders of Irancell, Abbasi said, “The South African firm has been barred from transferring profits from its Iran operations due to the US sanctions.”

According to Abbasi, the money will be handed to Irancell “in the form of a loan to be invested in its local ventures. MTN will receive a 12% interest on the loan.”

A state body—the Organization for Investment and Economic and Technical Assistance of Iran—need to ratify the financial transaction.

The MTN-Irancell CEO expressed interest in making investment in a startup which, given its partnership with Snapp, makes the Iranian e-commerce company a potentially likely recipient. 

Snapp offers a wide range of online services, from hailing rides and food delivery to booking flight tickets, reserving hotels and grocery shopping.

During the event, Abbasi revealed that “MTN-Irancell has a 60% stake in Snapp”.

He also discussed the operator’s plans for participating in the expansion of rural communications and upgrading its urban infrastructure.

5G was not mentioned even though journalists pressed Abbasi over the topic. Seemingly, US sanctions have put the brakes on Irancell’s 5G plans.

Irancell and Sweden’s Ericsson jointly conducted a test run of 5G connection in Tehran in 2017. During the test, a 4K video was transmitted using 5G technology in a few milliseconds.

4K refers to a horizontal resolution in the order of 4,000 pixels. Transferring a file with 4K resolution takes more than a few minutes using the conventional 4G communication technology.

At the time, it was reported that Irancell and Ericsson had an agreement to expand the fifth generation of wireless networks in Iran.

US sanctions, however, forced almost all major European companies operating in Iran to suspend their operations and cut ties with the Islamic Republic. Seemingly, the embargo has killed the Irancell-Ericsson deal as well.

Abbasi also said, “Over the past 13 years, Irancell has paid the Iranian government 321 trillion rials ($3.7 billion) in the form of taxes, revenue share and licensing fees.”


MTN Iran US sanctions Irancell South Africa partnership Reinvest Profits