Econet Wireless Zimbabwe’s CEO Douglas Mboweni has announced that he is confident that the cellco can reach its target of 1.2 million GSM subscribers by the end of February 2009, after the company reported a 41% year-on-year increase in its number of customers to 910,047 at the end of August. Commenting on Econet’s interim financial results for the six months to the end of August, Mboweni said his firm maintained its grip on the domestic mobile market, claiming an approximate 60% share of all users. Econet is implementing a network upgrade with the aim of reaching a capacity of 1.2 million subscribers by the end of 2008. Mboweni told analysts that funding had already been secured for additional expansion and a circular was being prepared for necessary shareholder approvals. The fresh funding would take Econet’s network capacity to almost two million, he said.
The company’s core telecoms business recorded its first ever net operational loss in the most recent six-month period, amounting to ZWD274.3 million (USD813,000), but the group posted after-tax earnings attributable to shareholders of ZWD16.2 billion, related to shareholdings outside the telecoms field. Mboweni blamed restrictive tariff regulation for the negative operational figures: in US dollar terms, Econet tariffs averaged less than USD0.01 during the period under review, whilst the regional average was around USD0.30 per minute, he claimed. ‘Our tariff is the lowest in the world,’ Mboweni continued, adding that the company was in talks with the regulator, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) on reviewing charges to make them more realistic. However, due to the country’s dual tariff control regime, after negotiating with POTRAZ, the matter must also be taken to the National Incomes and Pricing Commission.