MTN SA capex gets US$532.4 million ontop of load shedding

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MTN South invested $532.4 million in its network in 2023 as it fought the impact of severe load shedding.

As a result, it said it has managed to offset the risk of customers leaving for rival networks, while delivering what MTN Group described as a “resilient” performance given the difficult trading environment.

“During the year, MTN South Africa invested $532.4 million of capex (excluding leases), including its resilience plan to improve network availability in the context of increased load shedding,” MTN Group said in notes in its financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2023, which were published on Monday.

“By December 2023, MTN South Africa’s network availability had improved significantly and ahead of schedule, to approximately 95%. This translated to an improvement in customer satisfaction, with the Net Promoter Score on the network recording a notable increase.”

MTN South Africa increased its subscriber base by 2.4% to 37.4 million, with net additions of 893 000 for the year. The number of post-paid subscribers grew, reaching 4.1 million. Prepaid customers increased by 0.3% to 28.3 million.

The headline numbers, however, showed a somewhat mixed picture. While service revenue rose by 2.5%, outgoing voice revenue slumped by 12.1%. Data revenue was up by 7.4%, while enterprise, wholesale and fintech revenues rose by 15.9%, 13.4% and 14.7%, respectively.

MTN South Africa’s national roaming revenue rose by 26.1%, “driven by Cell C revenues as well as the steady scaling of the multi-year national roaming agreement with Telkom”.

Data now makes up 47.8% of MTN South Africa’s service revenue; data traffic grew by 27.7% in 2023. An active prepaid data subscriber now consumes an average of 3GB/month of data, up 15% year on year, while an active post-paid data subscriber uses an average 16.5GB, up 29.6%.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation – Ebitda, or a measure of operating profit – declined by 5.8%, with the Ebitda margin declining by 3.1 percentage points to 36.1%. This was impacted by “top-line pressures, as well as higher power and other network resilience-related costs”.

“We continued with our cost optimisation drive to safeguard profitability and cash flows, underpinned by the expense efficiency programme. This enabled us to absorb some of the macroeconomic shocks experienced during the year,” MTN said.

Looking ahead at the 2024 financial year, MTN said the pressure on the prepaid market is likely to continue, while “base effects” will impact growth in the wholesale segment.

 

“MTN South Africa is well positioned to execute on its priority to return top-line growth and Ebitda margin to targeted medium-term ranges. As part of our revenue acceleration initiatives, we have made a deliberate effort to front-load the investment into the device market. While this will place some pressure on our margin performance in the short term, it will strengthen our market position and safeguard our revenue share.”

It said it expects to conclude its network resilience investment in the first quarter of 2024.

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