MTN looks to sell off Mascom Wireless Botswana
11 March 2019
According to people who are familiar with the matter, MTN might be toying with the idea of dropping its business venture with Mascom Wireless in Botswana as CEO Rob Shuter makes plans to reduce the number of countries in which MTN operates.
The disposal of MTN’s deal with Botswana’s Mascom could possibly generate as much as $176 million, said the people, who requested not to be identified as the sale process is still ongoing and hasn’t yet been publicly disclosed.
Last year Shuter was reported to have initiated a review of MTN’s then-22 markets with the intention of selling off some of these businesses. To date, MTN has only completed the sale of its operation in Cyprus.
Shuter is said to be looking to focus mainly on MTN’s growth areas and identify where it doesn’t necessarily require a presence.
Some markets, like Syria and South Sudan, have been destroyed by conflict, while others have become a burden because of local government and regulatory interventions. Other markets are tiny when compared to MTN’s largest markets. Botswana is one of those tiny ones with almost 1.7 million customers compared with to MTN’s 225 million subscribers throughout Africa and the Middle East.
These deliberations come as MTN gets ready to report its full-year earnings while facing obstacles on several fronts. The most prominent obstacle currently being the accusations that the carrier owes US$2-billion of back taxes in Nigeria, its largest market, with a court hearing coming up later this month.
MTN’s shares have slumped significantly in the past year. Last week the company explained that its 2018 earnings had been hurt by factors including losses made in foreign-exchange and the settlement of another Nigeria dispute for $53-million.
MTN’s Botswana business is among only three other country units in which MTN operates as a joint venture, alongside Eswatini (Swaziland) and Iran.
MTN acquired a 44% stake in Mascom in 2005 and also co-owns the carrier together with local investors.
The carrier is also reported to be looking into selling its Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Liberia businesses in West Africa. The Paris-based mobile operator Orange is a competitor in all three of these countries as well as in Botswana.