MTN records subscriber gain across all of its region

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MTN has shrugged off the effects of the SIM card registration law, and has recorded subscriber gains across all of its regions.

However, the average revenue per user (ARPU) has slowed in two out of three regions for the three months between December and March. ARPU was up 7% in SA and 4% in Swaziland, but down in every other country in which MTN has a presence.
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MTN this afternoon told the market that subscribers grew by 7% during the quarter, with total subscribers now at 123.6 million, up from the 116 million the company recorded in December.

In March, when the company presented its full-year results to December, it said operating profit had taken a knock after it lost a million subscribers in SA, because of the requirements of the registration Act known as RICA.

CEO Phuthuma Nhleko explained at the time that MTN was slow off the mark in implementing RICA and it took time to get the systems right. Previously, MTN had indicated a flat net addition of subscribers for the year, but had underestimated the effects of the legislation.

This morning, however, the company indicated its RICA woes seemed to be a thing of the past. The south and east African region, which contributes 22% of the group's subscriber base, grew 4% in the quarter.

SA, which is 60% of the region, grew 2.2%, adding 358,000 new users. MTN says this signals “a more normalised growth pattern following the effect of the RICA implementation in the second half of 2009”.

The company says growth in South African subscriber numbers was mostly the result of increased brand awareness through its Ayoba and Mahala campaign.

In the west and central African region, Nigeria continued to gain ground, adding to its position as the group's largest operation. The region accounts for 46% of MTN's subscriber base, and grew 7% during the quarter.

Most of the growth was thanks to MTN's Nigerian operation, which grew 8% and contributes 59% of the region's subscribers. Nigeria now has 33.3 million subscribers. However, the country is also implementing a SIM card registration law, which could trim numbers.

MTN says Nigerian subscribers increased as the result of improved network quality and the continuing success of its distribution framework, which gave it a competitive advantage.

Ghana increased its subscriber base by 5%, to 8.4 million, despite the increasingly competitive market as MTN developed the brand and improved network quality.

In the Middle East and north Africa, the company benefited from strong growth in its Iran operation. The region grew 8% in the quarter as Iran – which accounts for 64% of the area – grew 9%, to 25.4 million.