By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU

From whatever side one looks at MTN Nigeria, it remains the toast of subscribers as it has consistently remained the biggest network. According to the latest report, the telecom giant has increased its market share with an additional 4.2 million subscribers to the network which is a representation of a 6.5% increase in Q1’20 to 68.5 million.

It is no longer news that the telecom giant recently posted a turnover of N329 billion in its first-quarter report for 2020. This figure stands for a growth of 16.68 per cent when compared to the turnover of N282 billion reported in the first quarter of 2019. In real term, this growth is a staggering testament to sound management, a clear understanding of niche marketing and ability to connect with subscribers.

Profit before tax of the telecom giant added value by 8.86 per cent to N76.308 billion in contrast to the pre-tax profit of N70.096 billion reported in the first quarter of 2019. Meanwhile, profit after tax for the period stands at N51.146 billion, up by 5.58 per cent from N48.441 billion reported in Q1 2019.

Its earnings per share stood at N2.51 up by 5.58% when compared to the earnings per share of N2.38 reported in Q1 2019. Interestingly, for the quarter, the telecom behemoth increased its market share with the addition of 4.2 million subscribers to the network representing a 6.5% increase in the quarter to 68.5 million.

The latest report suggests that active data subscribers have also moved by 6.6% to 26.8 million, which stand for an additional 1.7 million data users. From BusinessHallmark’s findings, the astronomical jump in the subscriber base was in part attributed to the development of additional SIM registration devices and various Customer Value Management (CVM) initiatives rolled out during the quarter.

The report suggests growth in voice revenue and stands at 7.4% (+3.2% Quarter on Quarter) and accounted for 69.1% of service revenue, while on the other hand voice traffic rose by 7.2% year on year, supporting revenue growth.

Data revenue, making up 22.6% of service revenue grew by 59.2% (+12.3% quarter on quarter). This was achieved through increased data subscribers and improved 4G penetration, which supported traffic growth of 130.4% year on year (25.2% quarter on quarter); 1.6 million new smartphones were added to the network, bringing smartphone penetration to 42.6% of the base.

For the telecom giant, it is refreshing that the digital business has returned to growth with revenue moving by 63.7% (+8.0% quarter on quarter) backed by a  broad portfolio of digital products and services and improvement in the customer service experience.

  During the quarter, 1.6 million new users were added bringing active base for digital subscriptions to 3.8 million users. For Biodun Anjorin of Digital Analytics, MTN has at various levels connected with subscribers. He told BusinessHallmark that, “the growth fintech revenue in Q1’20 was largely  a product of driven an increase in the adoption of MTN Xtratime, an airtime lending service.”

“Recall that seventy thousand (70,000) Mo-Mo agents were added in the quarter to the network and this has a positive effect on the telecom giant. The additions have upped the total number of registered agents to 178,000 nationwide”, he said.

Findings revealed that the total volume of transactions processed by agents during the quarter was over 5.6 million, about 805 of it were airtime vending. On the whole, MTN Nigeria posted a growth of 8.9% in profit before tax (N76.3 billion),  this was attributed to an increase in finance costs which in turn was said to have been accounted for higher borrowings.

The profit after tax and earnings per share of the Telco giant both appreciated by 5.58% to settle at N51.146 billion and N2.51 respectively. MTN has been successful in reining in foreign currency exposures within manageable limits for the balance sheet to withstand currency volatility.  According to the report, its debt split is 92% in local currency and 85% in foreign currency.

Of course, the telecom giant has had its fair share of the negative impact of the pandemic, as it triggered demand and supply chain disruption, resulting in the slowdown of economic activities.  But this has had only minimal effect, thanks to the fact that the Federal Government of Nigeria in response to the COVID-19 pandemic classified telecommunications as essential services and thus exempted from the lockdown.

MTN in recognition of the essentiality of its services had taken the necessary precaution to ensure that its services remain available to its customers, despite the disruption. As part of its contribution to fighting the pandemic, MTN launched the ‘Yello Hope Package’, a broad set of initiatives deployed to support national efforts at combating the spread of the COVID-19 virus, mitigate the pandemic social impact and keep customers connected to their loved ones.

Andrew Jemiseniyan, a telecommunication analyst and managing director of Mega Softwares, told this magazine that the “telecom giant’s staying power is its ability to blend and feel the pulse of the nation. As you can see,   MTN’s direct contributions to support the fight against COVID-19, include support to CACOVID (N1 billion), federal and state governments (communications support) and the NCDC (Devices, airtime, SMS channel, and data).”

MTN made efforts to provide its customers with a range of free services to help make communication easier.

According to information on its websites, the telecom giant sent more than two billion free SMS to over 40 million subscribers. It says roughly an approximately 3,000 Terrabytes of free data were utilized to access zero-rated health websites.

Without any sights for COVID-19 disruptions like many companies, MTN began the year with a bright and rosy- coloured view of the prospects for the business in 2020. This was to be expected given the strong performance in service revenue delivered in the first quarter.

However, recent developments relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, oil price volatility, foreign exchange rates and availability call for a more measured outlook in the near term have tended to obviate this prospect on the overall.

MTN stated that it will continue to invest in the network to provide adequate capacity and resilience. This is key as data traffic on the network continues to increase. Although the situation remains fluid due to uncertainties around the potential impact of COVID-19 as well as oil price, foreign exchange rates volatility and foreign currency availability, the telco will continue to perform.