Mobile operator MTN Group on Wednesday (5 May) reported strong growth for the first quarter of 2021, with service revenue exceeding its medium-term guidance, driven by gains in data and fintech revenue.
Group service revenue was up by 17.8%, and MTN South Africa service revenue was up by 11.8%, with an earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) margin of 39.8% – from 36.6% before.
Subscribers however decreased by 1.7 million to 277.9 million, impacted by new SIM registration regulations in Nigeria. Excluding Nigeria, subscribers were up 3.4 million, MTN said. Active data subscribers declined by 1.3 million to 115.6 million, it said.
“The MTN Group has delivered a solid Q1 2021 trading performance, with service revenue and EBITDA margins expanding on the back of continued commercial momentum and resilient networks,” said MTN group president and chief executive officer Ralph Mupita, adding that the group’s Ambition 2025 strategy gained execution traction.
In constant currency terms, service revenue grew by 17.8% to R42.3 billion at end-March 2021, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose by 21.3% and the EBITDA margin widened to 44.2% from 42.7%.
“The overall group results were supported by double-digit service revenue growth from our large operations and continued focus on our expense efficiency programme.
“We are encouraged in particular by the strong performance of MTN South Africa, as well as accelerating data and fintech services across the group in the period,” he said.
MTN South Africa (MTN SA) recorded strong performances across the consumer, enterprise and wholesale businesses.
Underpinned by market share gains and a subscriber base of 32.1 million, an 11.8% increase in service revenue and good cost containment drove a 3.2 percentage point expansion in MTN SA’s EBITDA margin to 39.8%.
“We are pleased with the momentum in driving our platform strategy and the fintech separation project is progressing well, in line with our Ambition 2025 strategy,” said Mupita.
“MTN Rwanda recently received a licence to operate a separate fintech entity, bringing the number of structurally separated entities to 12 (out of 16 fintech markets). We continue to progress our work in establishing the Topco structure for fintech, and anticipate that this will be concluded before Q1 2022.”
MTN said that the group’s active data subscribers declined by 1.3 million to 115.6 million, while the number of MoMo customers increased by 0.2 million to 46.6 million.
Excluding the impacts of MTN Nigeria, total subscribers and active data subscribers increased by 3.4 million and 1.3 million respectively.
For South Africa, total subscribers increased around 95,000 in the quarter to 32.1 million with postpaid subscribers up around 79,000 to record a base of 6.8 million, including IoT.
This was driven mainly by competitive offerings and stabilised churn, MTN said. The prepaid subscriber base closed at 25.3 million, with over 16,000 subscribers added in the quarter.
Overall mobile data revenue grew by 18.5% driven by robust data traffic growth, which increased by 76.3%, the operator said.
MTN said that the active prepaid data subscriber now consumes approximately 2GB of data, on average, with the active postpaid data subscriber using nearly 10GB of data per month.
Since its launch in South Africa in January 2020, MTN said that its mobile money service in SA, MoMo, had approximately 3.1 million registered users at 31 March 2021.
“The focus remains on scaling the MoMo business and deepening financial inclusion through driving adoption as well as innovative and relevant service offerings,” it said.
“For the rest of the 2021 outlook, the challenges facing consumers in a tough macroeconomic environment remain a factor and MTN SA remains committed to delivering innovative and attractive products and services,” it said.