MTN gears up to get Iran cash back
The growth of MTN’s operations in Iran and the recent shipment of 13 tons of gold to that country amid economic sanctions should be the first sign for South African businesses of the relaxation of sanctions by the international community, according to economist Mike Schüssler.
Schüssler said the $1 billion (R12.34 billion) MTN will now be able to repatriate when sanctions are officially lifted showed that doing business in Iran was profitable.
“There’s a lot more that will be going South Africa’s way in terms of Iran, and there’s a lot of trade we can expect between the two countries, particularly when it comes to importing crude oil from Iran.
“Oil is our biggest import item and, before 2012, we used to import a lot of oil from Iran. A return to that could lead to a decrease in oil prices for South Africa,” he said.
His comments followed International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s statement this week that South Africa did not agree to the international sanctions because it did not believe Iran was developing nuclear arsenals as part of its nuclear programme.
The department of international relations and cooperation’s deputy director general of public diplomacy, Clayson Monyela, said South Africa and Iran signed multiple cooperation deals in May, which would see the countries cooperate in many industries, including mining technology, agriculture, health, maritime and rail transportation, as well as economic and technical operations.
Agreements between South Africa and Iran include cooperation on mining technology between the Iranian Mineral Processing Research Centre and South Africa’s Mintek, the leading provider of minerals processing and metallurgical engineering products.
“Those were sanctions which we did not agree to as South Africa because we’ve always encouraged South African businesses to consider Iran for investment.
“The lifting of sanctions is a breakthrough that will benefit both countries,” said Monyela.
Sanctions had seen exports to Iran falling from R1.5 billion in 2007 to R162 million in 2013.
Monyela could not shed more light on the 13 tons of gold, reportedly worth R6 billion, that was shipped to Iran prior to the conclusion of nuclear negotiations on Iran, in Vienna.
“We were not involved in that matter and know nothing about it,” said Monyela.
While MTN stuck it out in Iran, other investors divested.
In 2013, petrochemical giant Sasol was one of a few companies that divested, reluctantly selling its 50% stake in Arya Sasol Polymer.
Sasol spokesperson Alex Anderson told City Press that although the company used to import a lot of crude oil from Iran, it had no current plans to go back.
“We have no immediate plans for Iran at the moment. But it’s something we will have to talk about,” he said.