MTN Group has said that “advanced talks” are underway that could lead to it selling its 75% stake in MTN Syria, with further divestments in Afghanistan and Yemen on the horizon.
The South African group recently confirmed that it planned to exit the Middle East over the medium-term and focus on its core African markets, with Bloomberg quoting outgoing CEO Rob Shuter as saying that the region was becoming “increasingly complex” while contributing less to the group’s bottom line.
The three aforementioned markets are suffering continued conflict, creating a difficult operating environment. Additionally, TeleGeography reports that MTN’s local units have faced extensive allegations and controversy over their practices.
“We used to say that the conflict markets were not consuming any of our capital and could still be good contributors if the situation turned around”, said Shuter, before noting that currency devaluations meant that “they have become small in our lives, but could be significant in the hand of another company.”
Shuter denied that a US lawsuit against MTN Afghanistan had prompted the divestment, and south to quell fears among shareholders, noting that the exit strategy was “not a fire sale…This will be done in a very orderly and responsible way over the next few years.”