Revitalised MTN overcomes adverse conditions in latest report

MTN delivered a solid overall performance for the year, with progress on many fronts, despite difficult economic conditions, according to CEO Rob Shuter

Telecommunications behemoth MTN on Thursday published its financial results for the year ended December 2017, showing a decline in group revenue to R132.8 billion, from R147.9 billion before; however, operating profit climbed to R20.6 billion, from R14.2 billion in 2016.

Group earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation climbed to R46.95 billion, from R40.75 billion before, with headline earnings per share (HEPS) of 182 cents compared to a 77 cents headline loss per share a year earlier.

The board declared a final dividend of 450 cents per share. This, it said, is in line with the 2017 guidance of a total dividend of 700 cents per share communicated in March 2017.

“Nigeria experienced a markedly weaker naira as well as hard currency liquidity challenges earlier in the year, but this showed signs of improvement as the year progressed.

“Although South Africa entered a technical recession in the first quarter of 2017, growth resumed in the second quarter and the rand strengthened considerably against the  US dollar during the latter part of the year. Many of the currencies in our other markets weakened. In Iran, economic  growth slowed somewhat and the rial weakened. Despite these macro challenges, the group continued to deliver on its  operational targets,” MTN said.

Group president and CEO, Rob Shuter said: “MTN delivered a solid overall performance for the year, with progress on many fronts, despite difficult economic conditions as well as operational and regulatory challenges in certain markets. MTN Nigeria showed strong constant  currency revenue growth and MTN South Africa’s postpaid business displayed encouraging improvements.

“The group’s top-line growth was driven by robust growth in data revenue (on a constant currency basis), supported by the  combination of improving customer service and more stable and competitive networks.”

For South Africa, revenue improved marginally to R42.5 billion, from R41.3 billion, with EBITDA up to R14.7 billion, from R13.5 billion in 2016.

Nigeria, however, was disappointing, with revenue down to R36 billion, from R47.1 billion, and EBITDA down to R14.7 billion, from R13.5 billion before.

MTN also recorded good growth in the average spend of its local user base, with ARPU increasing from R82.59 in 1Q16, to R96.80 in 4Q17.

Looking ahead, MTN said it is well positioned to capture growth. “Africa and the Middle East are forecast to remain among the world’s key growth regions over the medium to long term. We are confident that MTN is well placed to benefit from this opportunity.

“We will continue to leverage our scale and enhance our competitive position, benefiting from favourable demographic growth, low data penetration in our markets and the unique opportunity we have to provide our customers with a range of digital services,” it said.