African operator group MTN published a trading update for the first quarter of 2019, stating it had met its medium-term revenue growth target with a 10 per cent increase led by its operations in South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana.
Group service revenue (excluding Cyprus) was ZAR33.2 billion ($2.3 billion), of which ZAR9.1 billion was from South Africa (up 4.6 per cent year-on-year) and ZAR10.8 billion from Nigeria (up 13.4 per cent at constant currency).
In a statement, the company noted a provisional report from South Africa’s Competition Commission regarding an inquiry into data pricing, stating it will respond by the 14 June 2019 deadline.
The body had said benchmarking had confirmed prices were high, particularly for prepaid customers, stating that “disturbingly”, data from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa showed higher pricing for MTN and peer Vodacom when compared with the other countries in which they operate.
Rob Shuter, group CEO, said: “In South Africa, we implemented changed pricing for prepaid propositions where we reduced, materially the out-of-bundle tariffs, making data services much more affordable.”
The company also argued for the “urgent release of high demand spectrum” to deliver lower cost data services, and noted a “viable wholesale market” which enables smaller operators and MVNOs to provide “compelling” propositions to customers.
As part of efforts to boost its fintech business, MTN launched Ayoba, “Africa’s first instant messaging platform,” in Ivory Coast and Cameroon. Expansion into other markets and the integration of payments are planned for the second half of 2019.
The group cited growth in its voice, data and fintech revenue of 5.9 per cent, 18.3 per cent and 30.6 per cent respectively. Digital revenue declined 45.4 per cent, as a result of work to optimise its value added services business.
Group subscribers increased 4 million during the quarter to reach 236.6 million. Active data subscribers were up 2.6 million to 81.3 million; active MTN Mobile Money customers increased 1.2 million to 28.3 million.
MTN said it expects the disposal of its Mascom (Botswana) stake will close by the end-June, subject to regulatory approvals. Its e-commerce joint venture, Jumia Technologies, raised fresh capital and listed on the New York Stock Exchange: MTN’s stake is valued at around $560 million.
It also completed its conversion of MTN Nigeria to a public company ahead of an expected listing on the country’s stock exchange in the near future. A tax dispute in the country is ongoing.