Emerging market mobile operator MTN Group reported ‘muted net additions’ for its fiscal third quarter ended 30 September 2015, impacted by 5.1 million disconnections in Nigeria relating to the regulator-led subscriber registration process and a 2.6% fall in contract users in South Africa. MTN, which has around 233 million customers in 22 countries across Africa and the Middle East, said in a trading update that its aggregate user base grew by 0.9% quarter-on-quarter, but cut its full-year target to 14.8 million net additions.
MTN Group president and CEO, Sifiso Dabengwa, commented: ‘The Group’s third quarter results reflect continued progress made in the South African operation, strengthening its market position and significant improvements in network quality following corrective measures taken in MTN Nigeria. The Group continued to invest in its 3G network, catering for increased demand for data services. During the quarter we added 3,800 3G sites and 1,357 LTE sites. This, together with increased 3G device penetration, resulted in more than 100% y-o-y increase in data traffic across our operations. Mobile Money and digital content revenues continued to gain healthy traction, steadily increasing their contribution to revenue. However, aggressive price competition, weakening macroeconomic conditions in most of our markets and unfavourable exchange rate movements continued to impact financial performance for the quarter.’
In terms of operation highlights, the group’s MTN South Africa unit increased its subscriber base by 2.0% to 29.1 million in the three months under review, aided by a 3.1% increase in the pre-paid subscriber base, which offset the decline in contract users to 5.2 million, due to ‘the disconnections of approximately 90 000 low-cost router SIMs recorded on the Autopage subscriber base and low availability of handsets’. Data revenue in South Africa rose 40.0% y-o-y and now contributes 31.5% of total revenue, fuelled by cost-sensitive data bundles and the ongoing rollout of 3G and 4G infrastructure, which helped push up ARPU by 8.8%. MTN SA said that 1,746 largely co-located 3G and 811 LTE sites were added during the quarter.
Meanwhile, MTN Nigeria recorded a ‘marginal decline’ in its total user base to 62.5 million due to the aforementioned disconnections, but reported that data revenue increased 16.8% and now contributes 21.3% to total revenue, despite ‘a steep decline in data tariffs as a result of aggressive competition’. The cellco continues to push ahead with its fast-track 3G rollout: during the quarter 630 3G and 66 LTE sites were deployed, it said.