Data adds to MTN Uganda profit as voice calls slow

MTN Uganda shrugged off a difficult last quarter of 2015 to grow its subscriber base by 10.8% to just under 10 million customers in the first six months of 2016, interim half-year results by parent company MTN Group show.

The country’s largest company by revenue and biggest telecom increased its market share to 52.7% but total revenue fell 2.3% on the back of lower revenue from voice calls and a culling of unregistered subscribers at the end of 2015. The One Network Area, an initiative to reduce roaming and cross-border telephony charges in the East African Community, also hit revenues.

However, data revenue increased by 22.7% on the back of short-duration bundles, and data contributed 32.8% of revenues in the first half of the year, signalling its growing importance to the telecom.

Local content services, including MTN Play, were responsible for 70.5% of data revenue but MTN Uganda’s mobile money customers dropped by a quarter to 7.2 million due to the disconnections.

MTN Uganda recently launched MoKash, a mobile lending and savings product run in conjunction with CBA bank. The launch came a few days after the company appointed Wim Vanhelleputte, a Belgian national, as CEO, replacing Brian Gouldie.

Overall, MTN Uganda’s EBITDA margin decreased by six percentage points to 30% after taking a hit from higher network operating costs and associated US dollar-denominated expenses, as well as higher transmission costs following the rollout of 195 3G and 100 LTE network sites, group interim results show.

Overall the Johannesburg-listed MTN Group figures showed a bleaker picture after what the company described as a “perfect storm” characterised by a US$1.67 billion fine in Nigeria, weak macro-economic conditions across many markets, under-performance in the South African operation, and impairment charges in the war-affected South Sudan business.

Group subscribers remained flat at 232.6 million in the six months ended June 30, 2016 with EBITDA declining by 3.3% to R29.3 billion (Shs7,131.47 billion), representing a headline loss of 271 cents per share, with the Nigeria regulatory fine putting a R10.5 billion (Shs2,555.64 billion) hole in the results.

The rays of sunlight in the gloomy group results include a 135% and 7.9% increase in data and voice traffic respectively, which helped lift overall revenues by 14% to R78.8 billion (Shs19,086.44 billion). The company has recommended an interim dividend of 250 cents per share to stockholders on the JSE.