MTN subscriber numbers decline; RICA blamed

Telecommunications operator MTN Group on Thursday said that its South African subscriber base declined from 17.231m at the end of June 2009 to 16.419m at September 30, as a result of the implementation of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication- Related information Act (Rica).

The group reported subscribers up 5% at 108.466m for the quarter ended September 30.

Subscribers for the year to date were up 19.6%, it said.

“South Africa’s subscriber base declined from 17.231m at the end of June 2009 to 16.419m at September 30. The main reason for the movement is the significantly lower number of gross connections following the implementation of Rica on August 1.

“Given the current market uncertainty following the Rica implementation there are challenges with South Africa achieving its revised target of zero net additions for the full year,” MTN said.

MTN pointed out that South and East Africa (Sea) region contributed 23% (June 2009: 25%) of its total subscribers while West and Central Africa (Weca) and Middle East and North Africa (Mena) contributed 46% (June 2009: 46%) and 31% (June 2009: 30%), respectively.

“The Sea region increased its subscriber base by a very modest 0.5% for the quarter. This was primarily due to the disappointing negative movement of the South Africa subscriber base, which contributes 64% to the region.” “Uganda increased its subscriber base by 11% in the quarter following the continued success of MTN Zone, which now constitutes 95% of the total prepaid base.”

“The Weca region increased its subscriber base by 5% for the quarter driven mainly by Nigeria, which accounts for 58% of the region’s subscribers, the mobile group said.”

Nigeria recorded a 5% increase in its subscriber base to 28.751m “mainly due to continued network rollout, innovative product offerings and the effectiveness of the distribution channels implemented earlier in 2009”.

“Ghana maintained its market share and increased its subscriber base by 2.6% despite aggressive competitor activity. Both Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire increased their subscriber bases by 4% and 5% to 4.186m and 4.210m, respectively,” it said. The Mena region recorded a 9% increase in subscribers for the quarter, attributed in the main to continued growth from the Iran operation, which contributes 62% to the region’s subscribers and increased its base by 8% to 20.702m.

Iran’s growth was attributable mainly to expanded network coverage and continued promotional activity. “Syria increased its subscriber base by 13% to 4m well above expectations. Afghanistan, although a relatively smaller operation, has been steadily contributing positively to the region’s growth and has gained No 1 position in the market from No 3 at the beginning of 2009,” the group said.

MTN said it had revised its subscriber net addition guidance for the year for South Africa to zero and for Syria to 550 000 while other individually disclosed country guidance remains the same. MTN expects to achieve the total group subscriber net addition guidance for 2009 of 22.600m.

“MTN South Africa’s blended average revenue per user (“Arpu”) increased by 1% to R138. This was mainly due to the negative net connections of 750 000. US$ reported Arpu is now more in line with local currency trends, indicating relative currency stability in larger operations including Nigeria, Ghana, Iran and Syria. Arpus in Nigeria, Ghana, Iran and Syria have remained relatively stable for the quarter, ” the group concluded.

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MTN subscriber numbers decline; RICA blamed