MTN is now talking to authorities in both Ethiopia and Angola about operating there, the group has announced. It might seem odd that MTN, whose shares have more than halved over the past three years, should be looking to new markets when it has a hefty debt burden and many of its existing operations seem fragile. In particular, there is rank instability in its Middle Eastern businesses — Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Iran. CEO Rob Shuter would have been entirely justified in sitting tight until that storm passed. Instead, he said after MTN’s half-year results last week that while MTN might exit more markets, after selling out of Cyprus, its keen on adding to its portfolio, and Ethiopia and Angola are in its sights. "These are two attractive markets for us — they’re squarely in our geography and have large populations and relatively low [mobile phone and internet] penetration." Ethiopia is particularly attractive, as it is a big country, with about 108 million people, and there is on...

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