MTN to acquire mobile licence in Syria

08 August 2014 | Kavit Majithia


African operator MTN is planning to acquire a mobile licence in Syria, despite political upheaval in the country that has lasted for four years.

According to reports, the company has claimed it is making progress in evolving its present contract in Syria, which is a “Build, Operate and Transfer” (BOT) agreement, into a fully operational licence.

It will pay approximately $120 million as an initial licence fee and $168 million which it is paying the Syrian government from its revenues under the BOT agreement.

Civil unrest in Syria has rocked the country’s telecoms market, and regulators have shut down transmission networks numerous times, with half of MTN sites remaining dysfunctional.

MTN Syria has approximately 5.7 million subscribers and is the largest operator in the country, ahead of Syriatel.

MTN is looking to increase investments in the country after it secures the 20-year licence, with the company’s CEO Sifiso Dabengwa claiming it could spend approximately $250 million in capex.

He said that despite the problems it has faced in the country, MTN did not have any regrets about entering the market.

“The only response I have heard from our shareholders about the licence is a little bit of the positive side in the sense there is meaningful use for the cash that is in the country,” he said.

MTN was established in 1994 and has a reputation for entering emerging markets, with 251 million subscribers across 22 countries.