Johannesburg-based emerging markets mobile carrier MTN Group is reportedly in talks with potential buyers for its MTN Afghanistan wireless unit as it accelerates plans to exit the country in the wake of the recent takeover by the Taliban. Bloomberg cites unnamed people with knowledge of the matter as saying that MTN is in talks with several interested parties, although the negotiations reportedly do not include any Chinese buyers. A write-down of MTN’s Afghanistan operation without any proceeds from a disposal would cost about USD49 million, they said. The news agency notes that in unveiling its new government this week, the Taliban stated that investments from China will be key to helping rebuild an economy devastated by decades of war.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in August 2020 the South African carrier announced its intention to make a strategic exit from the Middle East region to focus on the African market. In announcing its interim financial results for 1H20, it said: ‘As part of our ongoing portfolio review, we believe the group is best served to focus in the future on our pan-African strategy. We will therefore be exiting the Middle East in an orderly manner over the medium term. As a first step we are in advanced discussions to sell our 75% stake in MTN Syria to TeleInvest, which is the minority shareholder in MTN Syria with a 25% holding.’ MTN Afghanistan is the country’s leading mobile provider by subscribers with around 2.35 million users and a 27.6% market share.