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MTN is planning to exit its Middle East markets over the medium term as it turns its focus solely to its African markets.

The group’s renewed focus on the future of its pan-African strategy forms part of its ongoing portfolio review programme. The telco has resolved to simplify its portfolio, amid an increasingly complex environment in the Middle East.

“We will be exiting the Middle East markets 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,” said MTN Group President and CEO Rob Shuter.

TeleInvest, which is the minority shareholder in MTN Syria with a 25% holding, will acquire MTN Group’s interest in MTN Syria for a net selling price of about $65-million, with expectations that the deal will conclude within the next six months.

MTN Syria forms part of MTN’s MENA cluster, which also comprises consolidated subsidiaries in Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan, and a 49% joint venture in IranCell. Phase one exit will include Sudan, Yemen, and Afghanistan.

“In time we will see a full exit,” he said of plans to potentially divest in IranCell in a much longer term.

The Middle East assets contributed less than 4% to group earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) during the first half of 2020.

This news comes after reports made the rounds that the telco is planning to sell part or all of its $243 million interest in Jumia in order to cut its debt and enter new markets

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