Tele2 knows a thing or two about buying and divesting international telecom operations. In January it reduced the number of countries in which it operates to nine, from a peak of 24, when the Norwegian Competition Authority (NCA) approved the sale of its operations in the country to TeliaSonera.

Despite having over-expanded in the past, the company does not rule out future acquisitions.

“We are clearly looking for distressed assets. If we can find the [right opportunity], within specific countries, we will do that,” said Mats Granryd, CEO of Tele2, speaking at Moble World Congress this week in a session entitled Enabling M&A for Industry Growth.

But we “never have the ambition to be a 24 country player again.”

Central Asia, where Tele2 already operates in Kazakhstan, could present opportunities.

“The ‘stans on the whole are very interesting — even though there are political challenges. There are plenty of opportunities, but we have so far been reluctant,” said Granryd.

Asked about the acquisition strategies of large companies such as Altice, Granryd advised caution.

“Big operators buying up whatever they can are rarely a success case. It bites them in the behind later.”

Tele2 is retrenching to better focus on providing profitable data services across its own networks.

“Operators need to mentally accept voice is free and gear up to be successful in a data only world,” said Granryd. The shift to charging for data is closing MVNO opportunities, believes Granryd.

“We are not in favour of MVNOs. We believe we should own our own network. I don’t …. see OTT or fixed players obtaining very lucrative MVNO agreements with us. Those days are gone. We are very mindful of protecting data consumption.”