MTN Group Ltd. has identified Ethiopia as a rare new market into which Africa’s largest wireless carrier wants to expand.
“There are a few large markets that are under-penetrated and where there is scope for a No. 1 or No. 2 operator, like Ethiopia,” Chief Executive Officer Rob Shuter said in an interview at Bloomberg’s London office. “That’s obviously one where we would be really excited to participate, in some way.’’
The move would fit with the Shuter’s focus on markets in which the carrier can be a major player, and where there’s an opportunity to seize on a consumer shift to mobile banking and other data services from voice. He’s been pulling MTN out of regions that don’t fit that strategy and is looking to sell holdings where it doesn’t have a controlling stake.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said last year he is looking to bring in private investors to the country’s telecommunications sector for the first time, prompting interest from operators keen to tap into Africa’s second-biggest population and one of its fastest-growing economies. The Horn of Africa nation is currently dominated by Ethio Telecom, a state monopoly. Vodacom Group Ltd., MTN’s Johannesburg rival, has also shown an interest.
Shares of MTN were up 2% as of 9:19 a.m. in Johannesburg.