MTN finally offloads Afghan unit to M1


The Lebanese telecoms group has been unveiled as the buyer of MTN’s Afghan unit, three months after the deal was struck

MTN Group has announced that the buyer of their Afghanistan unit is M1 New Ventures, with deal being valued at $35 million.

MTN announced it would be exiting the Middle East back in 2020, saying that the company would focus instead on its core markets in Africa. Since then, the operator group has gradually withdrawn from its holdings in the region, including Syria and Yemen last year.

Selling its Afghanistan business proved more difficult, with potential buyers wary of becoming involved in a country currently undergoing major upheaval, including a new government led by the Taliban.

However, a deal was finally announced back in August, with the buyer left unnamed.

That the buyer should now be revealed to be M1 Group should not come as much of a surprise. Historically, M1 has shown little reticence for working in country’s dominated by authoritarian regimes; indeed, M1 recently agreed to buy Telenor’s beleaguered Myanmar unit, which was under major pressure to impose service blackouts by the military junta.

For MTN, the sale of its Afghanistan unit will be the penultimate step its Middle Eastern exodus, with the Group still holding a 49% stake in the Iranian operator, Irancell.

After some speculation as to the unit’s future, earlier this year MTN Group CEO Ralph Mupita described Irancell as the company’s most stable investment in the Middle East, saying the company would not be looking to divest of its stake.

Whether this will remain Mupita’s stance on the matter for long, however, remains to be seen. Ongoing protests in Iran, trigged by the killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for wearing an ‘improper’ hijab back in September, have greatly destabilised the country and its economy.

With the government already responding to these protests by demanding internet blackout and widespread restrictions on social media, MTN’s future with Irancell could soon be up for debate once more.

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