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MTN set to divest from its Middle East operations

The MTN Group is in advanced talks to sell its stake in MTN Syria to the minority shareholder.

Africa’s largest telecoms firm, the MTN Group, has announced its plans to exit the Middle East. This is part of the wireless carrier’s strategic plan to shift focus entirely to its home continent, Africa.

The mobile operator said that as part of its medium-term strategy, it will be leaving the Middle East, starting with the sales of its 75% stake in MTN Syria. Overly reduced revenue from war-torn Syria and the complex nature of the operating environment in the country are part of the reasons MTN is divesting.

Rob Shuter, MTN CEO

MTN’s Chief Executive Officer, Rob Shuter, noted during a conference call with reporters, that,

“the Middle East environment is becoming increasingly complex and it contributes less to the group’s earnings.’’

Shuter disclosed that the disposals in the Middle East region will be done in a phased manner, with its 3 consolidated subsidiaries in Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria earmarked to be sold first. These markets only contribute about 4% to the group’s earnings before interest, depreciation, taxation, and amortization.

The MTN Group is in advanced talks to sell its stake in MTN Syria to the minority shareholder, TeleInvest, who has 25% stake in the firm, according to the CEO. He believes that the telecoms firm is better served to focus on its Pan-African strategy and simplify its portfolio by leaving the Middle East region in an orderly manner.

In the medium term, the group will also dispose of its 49% stake in MTN Irancell, one of its largest markets.

The South African firm plans to exit the entire portfolio in time, which will then leave it with 17 subsidiaries in Africa.