MTN’s 49% shareholding in its Iranian business is a prized asset and could help to boost the company’s earnings and valuation in future, according to an executive.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, a senior executive close to MTN said the company would benefit greatly from its decision to remain in the Iranian market.
The executive stated that if the situation in Iran stabilises, Iran’s mobile market would “make the South African and Nigerian markets look very small by comparison”.
“[Iran is] the biggest, most educated, and lucrative market in the Middle East,” said the executive.
Iran has a population of 83 million people and is already MTN’s second-biggest market behind Nigeria in subscriber numbers.
MTN customers in Iran also consume more data than users in other markets, and the mobile operator’s ride-hailing app is used by Iranian citizens to arrange 1.2 million rides per day.
The company still faces challenges in the area, however, with the re-imposition of US sanctions limiting the ability to extract money from the market and slowing predicted economic growth.
MTN is also battling an investigation related to a dispute between itself and Turkcell over its entry into the Iranian market, with Turkcell claiming damages against MTN.
This resulted in a recent raid of MTN South Africa and Webber Wentzel offices by the Hawks in an effort to collect evidence related to the investigation.
MTN has condemned Turkcell’s allegations following an investigation by Lord Leonard Hoffmann into the dispute.
“Lord Hoffmann found that Turkcell’s allegations, which rested entirely upon the evidence of Christian Kilowan, were all a fabric of lies, distortions, and inventions,” said MTN.
“The ongoing attempt to re-litigate complaints that Turkcell have repeatedly litigated without success are contrary to the interests of justice,” the company added.