MTN in talks to sell some of its West African markets

Ralph Mupita

MTN is in advanced talks with Axian Group to sell some of its West African markets, according to people familiar with the matter, as Africa’s largest mobile operator trims its portfolio.

The companies are negotiating prices for MTN’s assets in Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea-Conakry, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is private.

They said the deal has not been finalized, and there is no guarantee that a transaction will go ahead.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg, the three countries accounted for 1.6% of MTN’s revenue in 2022.

A representative for MTN declined to comment. A spokesperson for Mauritius-based Axian didn’t have an immediate comment.

MTN’s Chief Executive Officer Ralph Mupita has been evaluating the company’s portfolio as the mobile phone company narrows its focus and resources on core markets, which include its biggest West African assets Nigeria and Ghana.

MTN operates in 19 countries in the region and has exited certain Middle Eastern businesses such as Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria.

Africa, which has a young population and a burgeoning market for smartphones, has proved to be an attractive place for companies targeting telecom deals.

In 2022, Axian bought Millicom International Cellular’s Tanzanian operations. The firm’s telecommunications unit has invested in towers, undersea cables, data centers, financial technology as well as a number of phone operators in countries such as Madagascar and Senegal. 

South Africa’s Vodacom Group Ltd. attracted interest from Emirates Telecommunications Group Co. as its parent company, Vodafone, weighs options for the business, people familiar with the matter said in December.

Telecel Group, headed by French tycoon Hugues Mulliez, bought Vodafone’s operations in Ghana earlier this year.