India’s Bharti Airtel posts $6m from Africa operations

A woman walks past a sign advertising the mobile banking service Airtel Money along Lumley Street in the Sierra Leonean capital Freetown, January 15, 2011. REUTERS/Simon Akam/Files

• Etisalat denies cracks in negotiation with banks
• MTN claims no increment in recharge card prices

Although, the home market appeared troubled due to intense competition, Bharti Airtel has however, posted a $6 million profit from Nigeria and other African countries where it has operations.

According to the fourth quarter (Q4) 2016 financial report of the Indian telecommunications giant, released yesterday, the profit came after a loss of $57 million in 2015.

The profit was due to growth in the data customer base and consumption, while overall revenue growth was helped by currency stabilisation in most markets.
This performance confirmed The Guardian’s report of Wednesday that it was only Airtel that recorded a significant growth in Q4, 2016, and Q1, 2017, among other Mobile Network Operators in Nigeria.

A statement on Wednesday, signed by Etisalat’s Vice President, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, Ibrahim Dikko, refuted crack in the firm’s negotiations with the banks, contrary to reports in some quarters.

In a related development, MTN has also denied hiking recharge card prices.Indeed, the Sunil Mittal-led mobile carrier’s Africa revenue climbed 2.6 per cent to $888 million in the three months ended March from $872 million a year earlier.

The financial year 2016-17 becomes the first full year that was positive on profit before tax level.Chief Operating Officer of Africa, Raghunath Mandava, said that revenue growth for the quarter was 4.4 per cent in constant currency terms during FY 16-17 with net revenues up a healthy 5.0 per cent as it shed unprofitable lines.

The report showed that data consumption and revenues have grown by 95.5 per cent & 23.5 per cent respectively in the just ended fiscal.“Our efforts to deliver a profitable business model for Africa have resulted in EBITDA growth of 36.0 per cent with margin expanding by +500 basis points on an underlying basis in FY 16-17. For the first time ever, African operation has delivered positive PBT (profit before tax) in the financial year (constant currency),” Mandava stated.

In the last quarter ended March this year, Bharti Airtel and Millicom International signed an agreement to combine their operations in Ghana through their respective subsidiaries, Airtel Ghana Limited and Tigo Ghana Limited, where the final entity will have equal ownership and governance rights from both parties. The deal closure is subject to customary regulatory approvals and other closing conditions.

Over the last fiscal, sale of Airtel operations in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone to Orange were closed, and sale and lease back of 1,510 towers in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Niger was also completed. With this, the company has sold and leased back 10,450 towers in 10 countries.

Meanwhile, Etisalat Nigeria, in a statement, said: “Etisalat Nigeria wishes to state without equivocation that discussions are not only ongoing with our bankers, but good progress has been made so far.

“We are optimistic that an agreement will be reached shortly and this will be communicated through the appropriate channels of the involved stakeholders.
“We appeal to our media partners who have indeed been critical to the success of our business over the years, to await the official communication of the outcome of the ongoing discussions and not lend their credible platforms to speculative and presumptive analysis of the discussions.

“As a business, our immediate focus is to ensure that we not only sustain a positive performance, but that we are in a position to continue to grow the business, deliver excellent customer service and increase value to our stakeholders which includes our bankers.

“We wish to assure our esteemed customers, service providers and other relevant stakeholders that Etisalat Nigeria has and will indeed continue to operate normally whilst these discussions are on-going.”

Against the addition of, N10 and, N20 put on the prices of MTN recharge cards by the vendors in the last six weeks, the telecommunications firm said it has not increased the prices of its recharge cards.

According to the acting Sales and Distribution Executive of MTN, Adekunle Adebiyi, the cost of recharge cards remains the face value stated on the physical vouchers.

Speaking further, Adebiyi said urgent steps were being taken to ensure compliance on sales of the recharge cards at the stated face value by all MTN’s trade partners and retailers.

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