MTN Group reveals strong 3Q subscriber growth

Telecoms

MTN's share price was climbing again yesterday in line with a relentless rise in subscriber numbers, with the cellular giant signing up 5.8-million more customers in the past three months.

Its networks serve 54,1-million people in 21 countries, making it the largest operator in Africa and the Middle East. MTN gets more than 64000 new users a day.

The counter opened at R123 and touched a R126.98 high last week after September quarter figures showed its subscribers had jumped 12% since June.

MTN's South African network is a cornerstone of its activities, with subscribers rising 3% to 14-million. Each contributes an average of R146 a month, 1% more than in the previous September quarter.

Nigeria is MTN's other cash cow, with 14,9-million customers each spending an average of $17 a month. That represents a 7% increase in customers and a healthy 4% rise in their spending. To avert any decline in Nigeria due to troublesome network quality and capacity issues, MTN is investing heavily in improving infrastructure and coping with the ceaseless demand.

The Middle East and North Africa region saw 36% growth in customers as its new Iranian network stepped up activity and won 1,7-million more users. Irancell serves 3,7-million people, each spending an average of $11 a month.

MTN CEO Phuthuma Nhleko said he was pleased with the steady growth in subscribers, especially in Iran where the business launched in earnest in January.

Its Benin network was silenced when authorities demanded a 500% backdated hike in the licence fee. This took a slice off performance there. Subscriber numbers fell 1% while average revenue per user fell from $15 to $11. But as Benin had only about 500000 customers the loss was unlikely to inflict long-term harm. Customer loss was probably kept to a minimum as rival Atlantique Telecom was also switched off in July, leaving users a choice of two smaller networks.

In September, President Thabo Mbeki and Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi brokered a deal for MTN to pay $60m for a 10-year licence.

Business Day