Wafa Telecom extends Syria options - Mobile World Live

Wafa Telecom extends Syria options

22 FEB 2022

Syria’s Communications and Technology Ministry named little-known Wafa Telecom as the country’s third mobile operator, although questions remain over what will become of the local business formerly operated by MTN.

An announcement by state media this week revealed Wafa Telecom will start offering services in the next nine months. Manhal Junaidi, director general of the Communications and Postal Regulatory Authority, stated the operator will be able to roam on both of the existing mobile networks during its first two years of operation.

Otherwise, little information was provided about Wafa Telecom or its shareholders. A report from Reuters citing senior businessmen said “influential businessmen with close ties to government officials” are key investors in the Damascus-based company.

Wafa Telecom’s CEO is Ghassan Saba, who it appears previously served as Syria’s Deputy Communications and Technology Minister.

The two existing mobile networks are operated by Syriatel and MTN Syria.

MTN Group, however, was forced to abandon its division in the country in somewhat chaotic circumstances following a row with authorities.

Reports place Syriatel’s subscriber numbers at more than 11 million, a 70 per cent share of the market. MTN Syria stated it was serving around 6.5 million.

MTN exit
It’s not yet clear what will happen to the former MTN Syria business.

In August 2021, group CEO Ralph Mupita stated MTN is “abandoning the operation and we will seek recourse if we have to in the international processes that are available to us”.

MTN also divested its majority stake in its Yemen business as it presses on with plans to exit the Middle East and focus on core African markets.

The group recently predicted earnings per share to fall by between 15 per cent and 25 per cent, reportedly owing to impairment charges relating mainly to Yemen along with non-cash losses from the deconsolidation of MTN Syria.

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Anne Morris

Anne Morris is a freelance journalist and contributes news and analysis to Mobile World Live.

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