MTN Group has reported encouraging results for the first half of 2020, navigating well through the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19, and have announced they are pulling-out of the Middle East.
MTN reported service revenue growth of 9.4% to R80 billion and EBITDA growth of 10.9% to R42 billion as efficiency initiatives saw its profit margins continue to improve. Headline earnings per share after non-operational impacts grew by 54%, operating free cash flow increased by 117.8% and ROE improved further to 14.1%.
“MTN’s first half performance affirmed the resilience of our people and business model as we delivered strong results against the backdrop of unprecedented socio- and macroeconomic uncertainty and challenges,” said MTN Group president and chief executive officer Rob Shuter.
“As we navigate the pandemic and its effects, we have prioritised looking after our people, customers and networks while focusing on efficiencies,” he said, adding that work-from-home programmes continue for MTN staff; Y’ello Hope Packages are helping ease customers’ financial pressures; and MTN’s support for various other initiatives aims to limit the impact of COVID-19 on society.
MTN also announced it was focusing its strategy in future on the African markets: “As part of our ongoing portfolio review, we believe the group is best served to focus in the future on our pan-African strategy. We will therefore be exiting the Middle East in an orderly manner over the medium term. As a first step we are in advanced discussions to sell our 75% stake in MTN Syria,” said Shuter.
Inspired by the group’s belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life, MTN added 11 million subscribers in the first six months of the year to reach a total base of 262 million. By end June 2020, MTN had 102 million active data users and 38 million active Mobile Money users.
Despite lockdown restrictions impacting network rollout, MTN Group invested R10 billion in capital expenditure across our markets and brought a further 54 million people into 3G and 4G coverage. The focus on affordability of data saw the average rate per megabyte reduced by 34%.
The group made progress on the asset realisation programme, concluding the disposal of the tower company investments in Ghana and Uganda for R8,8 billion.
MTN did not declare an interim dividend given the continued uncertain impact of COVID-19 on the operating environment but will consider a final dividend should conditions warrant.
“While we expect the remainder of the year to be shaped by the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic, we believe that MTN will remain comparatively resilient and is poised to sustain its growth over the medium term,” said Shuter.