Africa’s MTN Group in talks to sell Afghanistan arm

Africa’s MTN Group in talks to sell Afghanistan arm

Africa’s largest telecom company MTN Group is reportedly in talks with potential international buyers for its wireless business in Afghanistan, a bid to accelerate plans to exit the country, as per a Bloomberg report.

Bloomberg cites unnamed people, who asked not to be identified as the negotiations are ongoing, that Africa’s biggest mobile phone operator, the market leader in Afghanistan with a 40% share, is in discussions with several parties.

A write-down of MTN’s Afghanistan operation without any proceeds from 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.

This move is in line with MTN’s announcement of its medium-term exit plan for Middle Eastern countries just over a year ago, allowing the Johannesburg-based company to focus on African markets.

The South Africa headquartered company earlier this year abandoned its operation in Syria, citing regulatory demands that made operating there untenable; last month the carrier stated that it was still evaluating options in Yemen and Afghanistan.

Internet penetration in the country is still low at 22%, while just over a third of the population had mobile phone connections.

Meanwhile, telecom companies operating in Afghanistan, which also includes Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates, have reassured customers and investors they are keeping services running following the collapse of the US-backed government last month while trying to secure safety of their employees in the country.