Africa’s biggest wireless operator which has a 49 percent stake in a joint venture with Iran’s second biggest telecommunications provider, is keen to strengthen its foothold in the market.
According to the company’s head of strategy mergers and acquisitions, Stephen van Coller, MTN remains excited about the possibilities in Iran and expects Iran’s digital economy to move fast.
The move is part of MTN’s decade long plan to cement its pole position in risky but lucrative frontier markets in Middle East and Africa.
The company which had been unable to repatriate accumulated dividends from Iran until recently said in October that it had started receiving the cash and the process would take at least six months.
It has set aside about $700 million in capital expenditure that includes revamping its network in the middle-east country and tap into the growing e-commerce sector.
“While our presence in Iran’s e-commerce space is still relatively nascent, it is growing rapidly, particularly in the retail and travel sectors,” Coller said.
However, expanding in Iran has raised concerns with one of its investors, Abax Investments which hold less than 1 percent of the shares.
The company had been locked in months of negotiations with Nigerian authorities over an original $5.2 billion fine of which it ended up paying $1.7 billion, for failing to disconnect over 5 million subscribers in the country.
MTN is currently the subject of a parliamentary investigation in Nigeria over illegal repatriation of up to $14 billion in the last 10 years, which the company has denied.
Setbacks in Africa’s most populous nation have led to a fall in subscription by nearly 4 percent to about 59 million while sales are down 5 percent.