MTN’s share price dropped 7% on Thursday after it missed analysts’ earnings forecasts.

The cellphone network operator, which has operations in 22 countries in Africa and the Middle East, is back in the black after reporting losses in 2016.

MTN expects basic headline earnings per share of between 210c and 230c and basic earnings per share of between 280c and 300c for the six months to June.

During the matching period in 2016, the company reported a headline loss per share and an attributable loss per share of 271c and 301c, respectively, due to items such as a $1.6bn Nigerian regulatory fine, professional fees related to the fine and exchange rate fluctuations.

A Thomson Reuters consensus of 17 analysts forecast an earnings per share mean estimate of 628c for the 2017 financial year, Momentum SP Reid Securities analyst Sibonginkosi Nyanga said.

However, considering the trading update, the rolling earnings per share for the full year were lower than the market had been expecting of between 404c and 424c.

“The earnings fall well short of the numbers MTN produced in the interim period in 2015, before the Nigerian fine. We have been hoping for a stronger rebound,” he said.

Mergence Investment Managers portfolio manager Peter Takaendesa said the trading update was below market expectations in terms of the headline earnings per share performance, especially if the 2016 half-year earnings were normalised for one-off items, including the Nigerian fine.

“The challenge is that there are still many one-off items in the earnings numbers, so the market will be watching for the underlying operational strength,” Takaendesa said. Meeting the dividend guidance would also be key for the share price, he said.

“Our view is that earnings have bottomed here and the turnaround under the new management team should start to deliver a much-improved earnings performance from 2018,” he said.


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