With the selling of its 75 percent stake in MTN Syria, MTN Group has agreed to leave the Middle East region. This information was announced for the first half of 2020 alongside its Interim Financial Results. MTN plans to sell this stake to the other 25 percent of TeleInvest. The supplier of the South African network will then focus on their pan-African strategy.
“MTN has resolved to simplify its portfolio and focus on its pan-African strategy and will, therefore, be exiting its Middle Eastern assets 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.” – Group President and CEO, Rob Shuter.
MTN Operation had been a bumpy ride in the Middle East. At one point, it was alleged to have bribed its way to getting an operational license in Iran for 15 years. It was accused at another time of violating the Anti-Terrorism Act and of aiding militant groups in Afghanistan. The US sanctions have also made it impossible to repatriate cash from its joint venture with Iran as a result of the country’s crisis. All of these, combined with the pandemic of COVID-19, had a severe impact on the company and forced it to leave the area.
Middle East assets contributed less than 4 percent to the whole EBITDA group at the end of June. MTN Syria contributed 0.7 percent in the first half of 2020 to MTN ‘s published EBITDA. The MTN Syrian net assets were reduced to the estimated recuperable amount of USD 80 million in the MTN Group accounts. Therefore, it was decided in Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria to stop operations. It plans also to withdraw 49 per cent of Irancell ‘s minority shares.