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MTN subscriber base grows 1.1% q/q in Q1 amid challenges in South Africa, Nigeria and Iran [IntelliNews - Weekly Reports]
[April 27, 2014]

MTN subscriber base grows 1.1% q/q in Q1 amid challenges in South Africa, Nigeria and Iran [IntelliNews - Weekly Reports]

(IntelliNews - Weekly Reports Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) South Africa-based MTN, the biggest telecommunications operator in Africa, said its subscriber base grew 1.1% q/q to 210.1 million in Q1 2014, with growth being restricted by a ban on the sale of SIM cards in Nigeria during March, the disconnection of non-revenue generating subscribers in South Africa and slower subscriber growth in Iran. The company's data revenue, an increasingly important part of its business, rose 43.3% y/y in Q1, and its share of total revenue increased to 17%.

MTN CEO Sifiso Dabengwa noted that data and mobile money services remain the key focus areas for the group as traditional voice revenue remains under pressure amid tough operating environment with persistent price competition and regulatory challenges in key markets. The company saw a 12% increase in Mobile Money subscribers to 16.6 million in Q1.

Dabengwa noted also that cost containment and the execution of the company's infrastructure sharing strategy, particularly in South Africa, continue to make good progress. MTN's quarterly update does not include profit, revenue or cost numbers.

MTN's subscriber base in its home market, South Africa, narrowed by 3.2% during the quarter to 24.88 million, largely due to the disconnection of 973,064 subscribers who had been showing activity but not generating revenue. The company continued to focus on regaining relevance in the pre-paid segment and maintaining its post-paid market share. The number of post-paid subscribers grew 3.7% to 5.2 million. Data continued to bolster revenue growth, with data revenue up 13.3% y/y in Q1, contributing 22.8% to total revenue. Data subscribers reached 14.5 million. Blended ARPU dropped 11.4% q/q to ZAR 110.47.

MTN's biggest market, Nigeria, recorded a marginal 0.8% quarterly increase in subscriber numbers to 57.22 million as of end-March, as the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) imposed a one-month ban on the sale of SIMs by three of the four GSM operators. The mobile operator's market share declined marginally to 49.3%, but it kept its dominant position in Africa's most populous country. It said it has seen strong subscriber growth post the lifting of the ban at the beginning of this month. Local currency data revenue continued to grow strongly, up 21.1% y/y in Q1, thanks to improved 3G network quality and capacity. Local currency ARPU fell 3.2% q/q to NGN 1,178 due to lower effective tariffs.

MTN's second largest market, Iran, posted a slower-than-expected 1% q/q growth in client numbers to 41.78 million as of end-March, reflecting a weak economy, a highly penetrated market and increased price competition. Data revenue grew 79% y/y and its share of the total revenue increased to 10.4%.

The company's third biggest unit, MTN Ghana, boosted its subscribers by 1% for the quarter to 13.06 million at end-March amid currency and inflationary pressures, and increased competition. Local currency data revenue doubled y/y, boosting its contribution to total revenue to 7%. The company said it will continue to focus on managing overall costs in Ghana as the local cedi currency remains under pressure.

JSE-listed MTN operates in 22 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

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