MTN consolidated subscriber base grows 4% quarter-on-quarter

9 May 2011

South Africa-based telecoms group MTN has announced that its consolidated subscriber base increased to 147.27 million as at 31 March 2010, up 4% from the 141.6 million reported at the end of December 2010. A company statement said that ‘the group continued to perform well despite aggressive competition and heightened political unrest in certain countries in the Middle East and West Africa’. The respective subscriber bases of MTN’s three regions of operations – South and East Africa (SEA), West and Central Africa (WECA) and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) – remain relatively unchanged compared to end-December 2010, with the WECA region continuing to dominate proceedings, accounting for 45% of the group’s consolidated subscriber base; SEA contributed 22% of the group’s total customers, with MENA providing the remaining 33%.

The SEA region increased its collective subscriber base to 32.9 million in the three months ending 31 March, a rise of 3.2% quarter-on-quarter. MTN’s domestic unit now accounts for 58% of subscribers in SEA, with the firm’s South African customer base growing 1.9% to 19.2 million. MTN admitted that domestic growth was slower than expected, as a result of higher pre-paid disconnections, and some distribution difficulties. In line with previously apparent trends, first-quarter blended ARPU in South Africa decreased by 10% to ZAR137 (USD20.3). Pre-paid ARPU decreased 10% to ZAR101, whilst post-paid APRU declined 9% to ZAR299. Elsewhere, MTN Uganda demonstrated the SEA region’s strongest growth, increasing its subscriber base by 6.9% to 6.9 million, and maintaining its leadership position in an increasingly competitive market.

The West and Central African region increased its customer base by 3.4% in the three month period ending 31 March, to 66.61 million. Nigeria – MTN’s largest single market and that which contributes 60% of the region’s subscriber base – grew its base 4% to 40.21 million during the period. MTN credits the solid performance to the introduction of segmented tariff plans and bundled offerings. Elsewhere in the region, Cameroon recorded a net loss of 203,000 subscribers, following a regulatory requirement to disconnect 306,000 unregistered subscribers at end-March 2011. Meanwhile, Cote d’Ivoire increased its subscriber base by just 0.5% quarter-on-quarter, to 5.4 million. MTN blames the slow growth on the country’s ‘political and social instability’, suggesting that ‘normalisation of the operation is expected to take some time’. Finally, the MENA region saw its subscriber base increase 5.5% for the quarter. Once again, growth within MENA was largely attributable to MTN Irancell, which contributes 66% of the region’s subscribers, and increased its own customer base by 5.5%, to 31.4 million quarter-on-quarter.