South Africa-based regional mobile operator MTN Group reported ‘solid subscriber growth’ in the three months ended 31 March 2013, despite intense market competition, and reported a total user base of 195.388 million in 22 markets, up 3.2% from 189.266 million three months earlier. However, in its home market MTN lost 470,000 net connections (q-o-q) as a traditionally weak trading period was further impacted by high levels of churn to rivals’ cheaper offerings. The South African mobile sector has experienced a price war in which competitors such as Vodacom and Cell C are gaining at MTN’s expense. MTN’s South African unit grew its contract user base by 3.1% q-o-q to 4.636 million, but pre-paid customers fell 2.9%, or 609,000, to 20.314 million at end-March, giving it a total of 24.950 million subscribers. Nonetheless, MTN Group president and CEO Sifiso Dabengwa remained bullish, noted that: ‘Despite a slow start to the year, MTN [South Africa] maintained its market share and reviewed its market offerings to be more competitive’.
MTN Nigeria reported ‘continued improvement’ in Q1 2013, adding a net 3.9 million additions (8.1% q-o-q) for a total of 51.295 million, as the market rebounded strongly following the significant price reductions witnessed in the country in August and September 2012. MTN reported that as mobile penetration increases, data revenue is becoming increasingly important for growth. In the first three months of this year, data subscribers reached 22.8 million, and data revenue increased approximately 63.5% year-on-year in local currency terms. Moreover, the Nigerian arm rolled out an additional 450 new 2G sites during Q1 2013 compared to 211 in Q1 2012. It also added 259 co-located 3G sites, bringing the total number of 3G sites to 3,508.
Meanwhile, the Group’s other operations (Large Opco Cluster) reported stable growth. MTN Ghana increased its subscriber base by 2.5% q-o-q, adding 290,000 users for a total of 12.024 million. MTN Irancell closed out March with 41.542 million mobile users, up 2.6% on the figure reported at end-2012. Operations in Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Uganda and Sudan also increased to 7.499 million (+2.6%), 6.433 million (+5.8%), 7.950 million (+3.2%) and 8.206 million (+4.1%) respectively. Only MTN Syria bucked the trend – not helped by the ‘highly challenging environment’ – recording net disconnections of 364,000, a 6% decrease for a total of 5.665 million.
Finally, MTN Group’s Small OpCo Cluster, which includes operations in Yemen, Afghanistan, Benin, Congo-Brazzaville, Zambia, Guinea, Rwanda, Cyprus, Liberia, Botswana, Guinea-Bissau and Swaziland collectively added a net 650,000 users (+2.3%) for a total of 29.239 million.