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MTN Group to close operations in Middle East, focus on Africa



MTN Group to close operations in Middle East, focus on Africa

Telecommunications service provider, MTN Group has unveiled plans to pull out of the Middle East market to focus more on its operations in the African territory.

In the last half year report released by the group, it envisages sustained growth in the medium term, despite the continued impact of COVID-19 on global markets.

Rob Shuter, the group’s president said: “As part of our ongoing portfolio review, we believe the group is best served to focus in the future on our pan-African strategy.”

According to him, MTN will therefore be exiting the Middle East in an orderly manner over the medium term and as a first step, “we are in advanced discussions to sell our 75 per cent stake in MTN Syria.”

MTN reported service revenue growth of 9.4 per cent to R80 billion and EBITDA growth of 10.9 per cent to R42 billion.

Similarly, headline earnings per share after non-operational impacts grew by 54 per cent, operating free cash flow increased by 117.8 per cent and ROE improved further to 14.1 per cent.

Shuter added: “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.

“As we navigate the pandemic and its effects, we have prioritised looking after our people, customers and networks while focusing on efficiencies.”

He said 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 added 11 million subscribers in the first six months of the year to reach a total base of 262 million. By end June 2020, the operator 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 per cent,” the company stated in the report.

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.

The company stated: “Following a strong overall performance in the first half of the year, we are cautious of the uncertainties surrounding the likely duration and related economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for the rest of the year.

“The potential areas of impact and focus remain our employee and customers’ safety; regulatory risk; supply chain delays and availability; liquidity, currency and counterparty risks management; and the potential revenue impact from reduced consumer spend.”

“We remain focused on our journey from a traditional mobile telecommunications operator to an emerging digital operator, with 2020 being the ‘Year of the customer: the digital experience’ with focus on digitalisation as a tool to enhance customer experience as well as create value for our shareholders.”

“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.

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