Africa’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, South Africa-based MTN Group, has published its interim trading update for the three months ending 31 March 2017, highlighting a 7.1% year-on-year increase in consolidated revenue fuelled by strong data growth, which rose 29.4% over the same period and now accounts for 20% of total turnover. MTN closed out the first quarter with a total of 236.813 million mobile users (including WiMAX connections) across all its consolidated divisions in Africa and the Middle East, up from 229.603 million at 1Q16 but down 1.5% on a quarter-on-quarter basis. The company attributed the drop between December and March on restatements to subscriber numbers in Ghana, Rwanda and Zambia, but nonetheless, reported solid performances in other markets – most notably South Africa, Nigeria and Iran. Group CEO Rob Shuter noted: ‘In our key markets of South Africa, Nigeria and Iran, significant network investments made over the past few years are underpinning the improving revenue trends. The network investment planned for 2017 is expected to support further market share gains across our markets. While our reported subscriber numbers are lower than we had expected, this is largely the result of an ongoing review of subscriber definitions. We are planning to further modernise our internal subscriber definitions to more closely align with the changing mix of revenue streams and will report on this at the end of the first half of 2017.’
MTN South Africa reported a solid performance with a 4.1% increase in service revenue as total subscribers edged up to 30.231 million at end-March 2017 from 30.077 million at 1Q16. The unit reported that the Q1 performance was supported by data and digital revenue which increased by 17.8% and 20.3% respectively, while outgoing voice revenue declined 5.4% y-o-y as billable minutes declined by 7.5%. Going forward, the unit intends to drive network quality by continuing to upgrade its mobile infrastructure. In the first quarter of this year its network expansion saw 515 LTE sites and 53 3G sites going live, and MTN now claims to have a ‘strong network performance in three of the four large metro areas (Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban). Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the Group’s mobile business had a strong start to the year with an 11.6% increase in total revenue supported by a 71.3% increase in data revenue. However, the Nigerian subscriber base declined by 2.3% in the quarter to 60.523 million impacted by new regulations.