Deals or partnerships between telecom operators are prone to change depending on varying socio-economic factors. Some multinational companies collaborate with local operators to help boost the domestic telecoms sector. However, there are times when global connectivity demands may prompt a shift in the strategic direction of foreign investors.
In Afghanistan, telecom companies include Afghan Telecom, Afghan Wireless, Etisalat, MTN, Roshan, Salaam and others. Over 60% of the population have access to the internet and 18 million mobile phone users.
Roshan telecom operator comprises shares for Sweden’s Telia and Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development; 12.25% stake for the first and the majority for the second. Telia has withdrawn its stake in Roshan and finalized an exit from the market after striking a deal with the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, another Swiss for-profit entity and international development finance institution.
The Swedish group laid off the announcement in 2016, with plans to sell its stake; however, the move took some time and was extended till this year after waiting for a convenient buyer.
According to Telia’s 2015 strategy, the plan was to exit the Eurasia region while strengthening its focus on the Baltic and Nordic regions. The company said in a statement, “It has divested all of its 12.25 percent interest in the Afghan mobile operator Roshan to Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development.”
Telia’s exit from Afghanistan wasn’t enlisted as one of the markets it was planning to leave, and has also withdrawn and sold its stakes and business units from seven markets in Eurasia earlier this year: Nepal, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Tajikistan.
The South Asian country only had 57,000 fixed and mobile telecommunication subscribers in 2002, according to the World Bank, but a decade later, the telecom sector grew substantially.
The country’s five telecom operators now share about 18 million subscribers, according to official figures. They cover more than 85% of the population.
In the meantime, Telia also expanded its strategy to broader areas, making a deal in June to sell its indirect stake in Turkish operator Turkcell.