Africa’s biggest mobile operator, MTN Group, is in discussions with Axian Group about selling some of its operations in West Africa, sources close to the matter said. The talks are part of MTN’s strategy to focus on its main markets and simplify its portfolio. The deal is not yet certain and could fall through, the sources added.
MTN and Axian are trying to agree on a price for MTN’s units in Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea-Conakry, the sources said. These markets contributed only 1.6% of MTN’s revenue in 2022, according to Bloomberg data.
MTN’s CEO Ralph Mupita has been reviewing the company’s portfolio as he aims to improve its performance and growth prospects. MTN operates in 19 countries across the region, but has exited some Middle Eastern businesses such as Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria. MTN’s main markets in West Africa are Nigeria and Ghana, where it has invested heavily in network quality and customer service.
The potential sale to Axian comes amid a wave of interest in African telecom deals. Africa has a young and growing population and a rising demand for smartphones, making it an attractive market for telecom players. Axian bought Millicom International Cellular’s Tanzanian business in 2022. The Mauritius-based company’s telecom unit has also invested in towers, undersea cables, data centers, fintech and several phone operators in countries like Madagascar and Senegal.
Other telecom deals in Africa include Emirates Telecommunications Group Co.’s interest in South Africa’s Vodacom Group Ltd., which is owned by Vodafone Group Plc, and Telecel Group’s acquisition of Vodafone’s Ghanaian operations earlier this year.