MTN. Picture: BLOOMBERG/NADINE HUTTON
MTN. Picture: BLOOMBERG/NADINE HUTTON

MTN’s business in Ghana, the mobile operator’s fourth-largest market, grew earnings by more than a third in the three months to end-March.

Ghana has been a steady growth driver for MTN, which has had to contend with economic and regulatory troubles in its three largest markets — Nigeria, SA and Iran. 

The West African nation accounts for about 9% of MTN’s total revenues, and is the network operator’s largest mobile money market by subscribers.

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“MTN Ghana delivered a solid performance for the quarter,” the group said on Monday. 

Service revenue rose 21.9% compared with the same quarter a year before, as voice revenues climbed 20.3%, data revenues grew 22.3% and mobile financial services revenues surged 51%.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) rose 38.6%.

Subscriber numbers grew to 20.8-million, from 18.6-million, MTN said.

Active data subscriber numbers more than doubled to 14.3-million, and the number of mobile money users rose to 9.9-million from 8.4-million.

In 2018, MTN Ghana grew service revenues by 23.5% and ebitda grew 16.5% to 1.6-billion Ghanaian cedi.

MTN’s shares, which fell below R70 in September 2018 after the operator was slapped with two hefty fines in Nigeria, closed at R104 last week.

Sentiment towards the group has improved since MTN resolved a tussle with Nigeria’s central bank — a fine was reduced from $8.1bn to $53m — and the company set itself bullish financial targets.

In March, MTN raised its medium-term target for service revenue growth to “double digits”, and said adjusted return on equity should improve from 11.5% in 2018 to above 20% over time.

Meanwhile, MTN’s business in Iran faces a difficult few years. 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in a report on Monday Iran’s economy was likely to shrink by 6% in 2019. In 2020, growth would come in at just 0.2%.

This after the US reimposed sanctions on the Middle Eastern nation, fuelling its currency devaluation crisis.

The IMF also said Iran’s consumer prices would probably rise by 37.2% in 2019 and 31% in 2020.

MTN does not expect it will be able to repatriate cash from Iran for some time.

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za