MTN Group announced a strong and resilient operational and financial performance in the first quarter of 2021, with growth in service revenue exceeding medium-term guidance, driven by gains in data and fintech revenue.
“The MTN Group has delivered a solid Q1 2021 trading performance, with service revenue and EBITDA margins expanding on the back of continued commercial momentum and resilient networks,” said MTN Group president and chief executive officer Ralph Mupita, adding that the Group’s Ambition 2025 strategy had gained execution traction during challenging COVID-19 macroeconomic conditions in the quarter.
In constant currency terms, service revenue grew by 17.8% to R42.3 billion at end-March 2021, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose by 21.3% and the EBITDA margin widened to 44.2% from 42.7%.
“The overall Group results were supported by double-digit service revenue growth from our large operations and continued focus on our expense efficiency programme. We are encouraged in particular by the strong performance of MTN South Africa, as well as accelerating data and fintech services across the group in the period,” he said.
MTN South Africa (MTN SA) recorded strong performances across the consumer, enterprise and wholesale businesses. Underpinned by market share gains and a subscriber base of 32.1 million, an 11.8% increase in service revenue and good cost containment drove a 3.2 percentage point expansion in MTN SA’s EBITDA margin to 39.8%. MTN Nigeria and MTN Ghana continued to build on their solid operational execution and commercial momentum.
Group data revenue grew by almost a third amid sustained demand for work-from-home services, digital entertainment as well as online education offerings. Fintech revenue also accelerated, expanding by more than 31% as the value of fintech transactions increased by 87% to US$53 billion.
“We are pleased with the momentum in driving our platform strategy and the fintech separation project is progressing well, in line with our Ambition 2025 strategy,” said Mupita. “MTN Rwanda recently received a license to operate a separate fintech entity, bringing the number of structurally separated entities to 12 (out of 16 fintech markets). We continue to progress our work in establishing the Topco structure for fintech, and anticipate that this will be concluded before Q1 2022.”
The Group’s strong overall performance was despite a 1.7 million decrease in subscriber numbers to 277.9 million as MTN Nigeria’s subscribers declined because of restrictions on all new SIM sales and activations in that market. In this context, the Group’s active data subscribers declined by 1.3 million to 115.6 million, while the number of MoMo customers increased by 0.2 million to 46.6 million. Excluding the impacts of MTN Nigeria, MTN Group total subscribers and active data subscribers increased by 3.4 million and 1.3 million respectively.
COVID-19 continued to impact lives and livelihoods across the world, including at MTN. By 31 March 2021, the Group had reported 1 557 COVID-19 infections and mourned the loss of 11 MTN employees to the virus across our markets. We continue to prioritise the health and safety of our people.
Alongside equity partners, in April we submitted a bid for one of two telecoms licenses to operate in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most-populous country which represents the last and largest telco liberalisation opportunity in the world. MTN’s participation in the bid process aligns with our pan-Africa focus and capital allocation framework.
The Group remains committed to its asset realisation programme (ARP) and is confident of making progress on realising the 29% stake in tower company IHS Group in the short term. This is key to MTN’s ARP. IHS continues to explore an IPO of its shares in line with its public statement made in August 2020.
“Looking ahead, we are focused on executing our Ambition 2025 strategy, driving growth, de-leveraging the Holdco balance sheet and unlocking value, whilst navigating the impacts of the pandemic,” concluded Mupita.