MTN Group pressed on with moves to separate its mobile financial services business during Q1, alongside progressing various other cash-raising projects and preparing for its potential entry into Ethiopia.

In its earnings statement the operator group’s CEO Ralph Mupita (pictured) said the “fintech separation project” outlined earlier this year was progressing well.

He added its Rwanda business was the most recent to receive a licence from authorities to operate financial services outside of its core operation, taking its number of separated fintech entities to 12 out of a possible 16.

The company expects to have finished spinning-off all its financial services units by the end of Q1 2022. In an interview with the Financial Times last month Mupita revealed its ultimate plan was to IPO or sell a minority stake in the new business at an enterprise value of between $5 billion and $6 billion.

Its move is part of MTN’s Ambition 2025 strategy which also includes a range of measures to raise funds and restructure operations to focus on key markets and projects.

In its latest update, the operator noted it was still exploring the prospect of selling its stake in tower company IHS and was working on a potential sale and leaseback of passive infrastructure in its home market of South Africa. The latter is expected to be completed by the end of Q3.

Yesterday (4 May) it listed a stake in its Rwanda operation on the local stock market.

Efforts to raise cash come as the company enters the final stages of its attempted entry into Ethiopia, with MTN one of two last stage bidders for licences to compete with incumbent Ethio Telecom.

Its bid is backed by equity partners including China’s Silk Road Fund. Mupita cited the move as “an exciting growth opportunity” for MTN, noting Ethiopia was “Africa’s second most populous country and represents the last and largest telco liberalisation opportunity in the world.”

Should its bid be successful it would hold a 56 per cent stake in the new venture, with its equity partners holding the remainder.

Updates on progress of the group’s strategy came during its Q1 results announcement, where it reported an 8.8 per cent year-on-year rise in service revenue to ZAR41.96 billion ($2.9 billion).

Full revenue and profit figures are not reported in its Q1, though MTN noted EBITDA up 21.3 per cent on “increased commercial momentum” across the group.

Its total subscriber numbers dipped by 1.7 million during the quarter, a statistic attributed to revised SIM registration regulations in Nigeria which lead to a 12 million decline on the number of active connections in the market across the industry.