MTN Group outlined plans to exit the Middle East and focus its attentions solely on Africa as it revealed H1 numbers.

Outoging CEO Rob Shuter, who is heading for a role with BT, announced in an earnings statement MTN decided it was best served by focusing on its pan-Africa strategy, leading to an exit from the Middle East “in an orderly manner over the medium term”.

He added that as a first step, it had entered into advanced discussions with TeleInvest to sell its 75 per cent stake in MTN Syria. TeleInvest owns the other 25 per cent stake in the operator.

MTN will initially also look to sell its operations in Yemen and Afghanistan, before offloading its 49 per cent stake in MTN Irancell.

It noted the Middle East assets contributed less than 4 per cent to EBITDA in H1.

During the period, revenue grew 16 per cent year-on-year to ZAR84 billion ($4.8 billion) and profit grew from ZAR4.6 billion in H1 2019 to ZAR12 billion.

It said growth was down to strong performances in Ghana, Nigeria and home market South Africa, which “reported a pleasing turnaround in underlying consumer and enterprise business units”.

Shuter said following the peak impact of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) effects in April 2020, the company was encouraged by the “sequential recovery we have observed in key voice, data and fintech trends as restrictions have gradually eased”. 

“Commercial momentum continued, and we added 10.6 million subscribers to reach a total base of 261.5 million, and reached a significant milestone in surpassing the 100 million mark of active data users.”