MTN Group

MTN Group Limited, formerly M-Cell, is a South African multinational mobile telecommunications company, operating in many African, European and Asian countries. Its head office is in Johannesburg. As of 30 June 2016, MTN recorded 232.6 million subscribers, making it the eighth largest mobile network operator in the world, and the largest in Africa. Active in over 20 countries, one-third of company revenue come from Nigeria, where it holds about 35% market share.
MTN Group is the primary sponsor of the South Africa national rugby union team and sponsors English football club Manchester United F.C.
In March 2016, the company appointed Rob Shuter as Chief Executive Officer.
In December 2019, former Deputy Finance Minister of the Government of South Africa, Mcebisi Jonas, was appointed as the Board Chairperson of the company.


MTN acquired Investcom, mainly under the Areeba and Spacetel brands.
As of Q4 2018, MTN is active in:
Republic of Congo2.464
Guinea Bissau0.752
Ivory Coast11.050
Nigeria58.197Has the most MTN Subsribers
Rwanda4.46520% owned by Crystal Telecom Rwanda
South Africa31.191
South Sudan1.016


MTN's competitors in South Africa include Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom Mobile.

Merger talks with Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications

In May 2008, Bharti Airtel, an India-based telecommunications company, was exploring the possibility of buying MTN Group, according to The Financial Times. Reliance Communications was soon in talks with MTN for a "potential combination of their businesses". In July, the two companies announced that they had mutually decided to end discussions regarding the merger.

Acquisition of Verizon Business South Africa

In June 2008, MTN Group agreed to purchase Verizon Business South Africa, which was a provider of data services to corporate customers in South Africa and four other African countries. The acquisition was completed on 28 February 2009. MTN positioned themselves to provide DSL Broadband services in Africa, particularly South Africa, through its partnership with leading South African ISP, Afrihost.

International Carrier Services

On 26 June 2009, MTN Group's subsidiary merged with Belgacom International Carrier Services, a subsidiary of Belgacom. The combined subsidiary would function as the international gateway for carrier services of MTN.

Sale of Nigerian Stake

South African holding company Shanduka Group acquired a minority stake in MTN Group's Nigeria business for $335 million in November 2012.

Most Admired African Brand

In 2014, MTN was the only African brand named in the 2014 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brand ranking, the only South African company on the World Champions list and the Most Admired and Most Valuable Brand in Africa. It was also on the 2014 Brand Africa 100 ranking of the most admired and most valuable brands in Sub-Saharan Africa.
On 22 October 2015, MTN was named the Most Admired and the Most Valuable African brand, valued at US$4,672m, its second award in two years. Brand Africa announced at the 4th Annual Brand Africa 100: Africa's Best Brands gala event in Johannesburg, that MTN is the overall best brand on the continent and reclaims the No. 1 spot as the Most Admired Brand in Africa.


On 29 May 2018, MTN Ghana launched its Initial Public Offering. The IPO closed on 31 July 2018. A total of up to 4,637,394,533 ordinary shares of MTN Ghana, representing 35% of its equity was offered to qualifying applicants. This was part of the agreement between MTN Ghana and Ghana's National Communications Authority in November, 2015 for MTN Ghana to deploy 4G LTE mobile services to its customers in Ghana. Among other methods of payments, MTN mobile money was included as a payment option for the MTN share offer subscription. This was the first time mobile money had been used as a payment method in an IPO.

MTN Shuts Down Stores

On February 23, 2017, Nigerian protestors attacked a MTN office in Abuja, Nigeria as a counterattack due to violence targeted against Nigerians in South Africa.
In September 2019 MTN began closing stores in Nigeria and some of their stores in Johannesburg, South Africa due to rioting, looting, and attacks on some of their facilities.
Geoffrey Onyeama the Nigerian Foreign Minister stated at a press briefing on September 4, 2019, that MTN group along with Shoprite, stated that the targeted South African stores in Nigeria are "subsidiaries that are owned by Nigerians." And that "the property owned by Nigerians within Nigeria and the people working there are Nigerians.”
Lai Mohammed, Nigeria's Minister of Information and Culture, reported that some of the South African companies that were attacked in Nigeria have Nigerian investors owning significant amounts of stakes, and Nigerian employees.
MTN has stated that they will continue to do business in Nigeria.


In March 2019 MTN launched a WhatsApp channel to let its customers buy airtime and data bundles through the messaging app. Customers can also check their balances and store their credit or debit cards in the app for future purchases. The service is provided by another South African company that has a global reach, Clickatell, which is a WhatsApp Business Solution provider.

Cyprus branch re-branding

MTN sold its Cyprus branch to Monaco Telecom for €260 million in July 2018. It was later re-branded as Epic in June 2019.


MTN Group sponsored the CAF Champions League football competition, as well as APOEL FC, winners of the Cypriot First Division in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014, and participants in the 2009–10 and 2011–12 UEFA Champions League.
On 18 March 2010, it was announced that MTN signed a sponsorship deal with English football club Manchester United F.C.
Since 2017, MTN Group is the primary sponsor of the South Africa national rugby union team.



MTN has been criticised for its activities in Iran's telecommunications sector. MTN has a 49 percent stake in government-controlled MTN Irancell, the second-largest mobile phone operator in Iran, and 21 percent of MTN's subscriber base is from the country. In January 2012, the US-based advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran launched a campaign publicly calling for MTN to scale back its operations in Iran and end its business in the country. UANI alleges that MTN technology is "enabling the Iranian government to locate and track individual cellphone users which it says is a violation of users' human rights".
In June 2012, Reuters and the BBC reported an allegation by Chris Kilowan, a former executive for the company in Iran, that MTN Group may have been complicit in securing American telecommunications technology from Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems on behalf of Irancell, in violation of trade sanctions against Iran. Oracle, which owns Sun Microsystems, said that it was investigating and denied involvement, saying that it complies with US export laws. Hewlett-Packard issued a similar statement. MTN Group denied the allegations, saying that it complied with US sanctions against Iran.

Turkcell court case

Turkey's Turkcell filed a $4.2 billion lawsuit in Washington, D.C., in 2012 alleging the company used bribery to win a mobile licence in Iran that was first awarded to Turkcell. The court delayed the case in October 2012 pending a US Supreme Court decision on the Alien Tort Statute, the US human rights law on which Turkcell's suit is based. In May 2013, Turkcell dropped its multibillion-dollar US lawsuit against MTN Group, citing a US Supreme Court ruling that hurt its case. On 27 November 2013, Turkcell resued in Johannesburg.

Nigeria $5.2 billion fine

In 2015, the Nigerian subsidiary of MTN was fined by the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through the telecommunications regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission for partial compliance of regulatory guidelines to Mobile Network Operators to disconnect from their network, all improperly registered Subscribers Identification Modules. The commission exercised section 20 of the Telephone Subscribers regulation law on MTN, leading to a calculated fine of $5.2 billion, according to the constitution.
The compliance audit carried out by the NCC on MTN network revealed unregistered 5.2 million customers lines were not deactivated as directed. This led to the NCC fining MTN with the sum of $1000 for each unregistered SIM according to the Telephone Subscribers regulation law, which amounted to $5.2bn.
What followed was major resignations among the top echelon of the organization including the chief executive officer, Sifiso Dabengwa, the Head of Nigeria Operation, Micheal Ikpoki and the Head of Cooperate Affairs, Akinwale Goodluck being replaced with Phuthuma Nhleko, Ferdi Moolman and Amina Oyegbola as new chairman, managing director and Head of Corporate and Regulation respectively.
The new management employed a diplomatic measure between the government of the Republic of South Africa and its Nigerian counterpart to ameliorate the burden of the liabilities from the fine. This action brought about the reduction of the liability to $3.2 billion.

South Africa

In September 2018, MTN announced that it will close its zero rated access to the popular social network Twitter.


The company was founded in 1994 as M-Cell with assistance from the South African government. In 1995, it replaced its then-CEO, John Beck, with Robert Chaphe. In 2001, the company reported that its controlling shareholder was Johnnic Holdings, and the chairperson was Irene Charnley. In 2002, Phuthuma Nhleko became the CEO, replacing then-CEO Paul Edwards, who had invested in expansion to Nigeria.