SA, Nigeria and Ghana give MTN a quarterly boost

The MTN Group has recorded a 10% year-on-year growth in its first quarter update for the period ended 31 March 2019, citing strong operational performance in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.

This despite ongoing challenges within the Africa market, including MTN Nigeria’s tax battle with the country’s attorney general of the federation (AGF).

ITWeb reported that the matter is scheduled to be heard on 26 June after the Federal High Court ruled to dismiss the application filed by the AGF in response to the lawsuit.

The media report states that the Nigerian attorney general is demanding US$2-billion (R29-billion) in taxes relating to the importation of foreign equipment and payments to foreign suppliers since 2008.

The hearing was first scheduled for 8 November 2018, then moved to 3 December and then 7 February 2019, and then to 26 March 2019.

“MTN was handed the tax bill last September; however, it previously said the attorney general had exceeded his powers in making the demand,” writes ITWeb.

The most recent statement by MTN reads: “On Tuesday, 07 May the Federal High Court delivered its ruling, rejecting the Notice of Preliminary Objection filed by the AGF in response to MTN Nigeria’s lawsuit. The substantive case is now scheduled to be heard on June 26.”

In April the Cameroon Telecommunications Regulatory Board (TRB) rejected MTN Cameroon’s proposed tariff plan for 2019, including its technical offering and pricing conditions for access and sharing of network infrastructure.

TRB had recommended that MTN Cameroon reduce the cost of interconnection for SMS and voice by 50%, eliminate validity periods for SMS bundles, reduce SMS tariffs by 30% as well as reduce the surcharge distribution key in favour of partners.

FinTech expansion

With a focus on broadening its FinTech reach, MTN also launched what it describes as ‘Africa’s first instant messaging platform ‘Ayoba’ in Ivory Coast and Cameroon. The operator plans further expansion into other markets and the integration of payments in the second half of 2019.

Group CFO Ralph Mupita said: “We are pleased by the service revenue development, despite challenges in some markets. The growth in service revenue was supported by the continued expansion in voice, data and FinTech revenue which increased 5,9%, 18,3% and 30,6% respectively. Our asset realisation programme remains on track, and we anticipate that the Mascom transaction will close by end of June 2019, subject to regulatory approvals. Good progress has also been made on repayment of the ATC Ghana shareholder loan to MTN Group.”

MTN added that in Q2 its e-commerce joint venture Jumia Technologies AG successfully raised fresh capital to list on the New York Stock Exchange.

According to the operator its shareholding reduced to 18.9% in the IPO, and as at 6 May 2019, the value of its shareholding in Jumia was approximately US$560-million.

The company completed the conversion of MTN Nigeria to a public company ahead of the listing by introduction on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, which is anticipated for May 2019.

MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter said: “We are encouraged by the operational progress we continue to see across the business, supported by the network roll-out we achieved and enhancements to the propositions that we offer to our customers. In South Africa, we implemented changed pricing for pre-paid propositions where we reduced, materially the out-of-bundle tariffs, making data services much more affordable.”

Shuter added that the company takes note of the provisional report from the Competition Commission of Inquiry into data services and will respond by 14 June 2019.

MTN’s view is that the release of high demand spectrum in South Africa is critical to providing affordable and ubiquitous data services for the citizens of the country.

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