A man passes an MTN board in Lagos, Nigeria. Picture: AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI
A man passes an MTN board in Lagos, Nigeria. Picture: AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

MTN’s Nigerian business, its biggest by subscriber numbers, grew profit by more than a third in the six months to end-June thanks to new customers and higher voice and data revenues.

While Nigeria has been a thorny market for MTN, the network operator has vowed to stick it out in the West African state despite several run-ins with regulators.

In 2018, MTN’s shares plunged from R107.34 to below R70 in a matter of weeks after Nigeria’s central bank said it wanted the company to return $8.1bn (R120bn) in dividends.

That announcement was closely followed by a demand for back-taxes by Nigeria’s attorney-general.

The company reached a settlement with Nigeria’s central bank in December — the claim was reduced to $53m — but the tax case is yet to be resolved and will only be heard in court in October.

MTN said on Friday that its Nigerian unit grew service revenue 12.2% in the six months to end-June as voice revenue increased by 11.4% and data revenue rose 31.7%.

The company added 3.3-million customers to its network, taking its subscriber base to 61.5-million.

Profit after tax grew 34.8% to 98.9-billion naira as margins expanded.

"Our recent work to revamp our data prices and accelerate our 4G network has put us in a strong competitive position to offer more value to our customers, supporting data and voice revenue growth, which will ultimately strengthen our business," MTN Nigeria CEO Ferdi Moolman said.

MTN said on Thursday that its Nigerian business had replaced its chair and five other nonexecutive directors who have been on the board for nearly two decades. In September, Pascal Dozie will step down as chair and Sani Bello as vice-chair.

The company said on Friday its CFO, Adekunle Awobodu, would also resign from the position in the second half of 2019 "for family-related reasons".

MTN Nigeria was listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in May.

MTN Group’s shares were down 0.4% at R106.46 on Friday morning.

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za