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Bharti Airtel Africa’s Loss Slashed to $91 Million

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  • Bharti Airtel Africa’s Loss Slashed to $91 Million

From a $170 million loss a year ago in its Africa’s operations, India’s telecommunications firm, Bharti Airtel, sharply narrowed its net loss in the continent’s operations to $91 million.

The firm, owned by India’s business mogul, Sunnil Bharti Mittal, hinged the slash on growth in data customers and consumption and currency stabilisation in most markets, except for Nigeria, where the Naira depreciated by 7.9 per cent. Revenue for the continent rose 3.7 per cent to $898 million.

Chief Operating Officer of Africa, Raghunath Mandava, said that underlying Africa revenue growth for the quarter was 4.7 per cent year- on-year, backed by focus on profitable top line growth, led by localised distribution, stronger data networks and the company’s war on waste programme.

In Nigeria, the firm, which is headed by Segun Ogunsanya, currently controls 22 per cent of the market and services over 32 million customers across the country.

The telecommunications firm claimed that its second-quarter net profit fell almost five per cent from a year earlier, as its voice and data businesses came under pressure with the entry of Reliance Jio Infocomm in India, and its interest burden rose. The Indian top telecom company beat market estimates, though, as it controlled costs.

According to ET India, the company posted a net profit of Rs 1,461 crore for the three months ended September, topping the average estimate of about Rs 1,200 crore in an ET poll of analysts. Profit was little changed from Rs 1,462 crore in the April-June quarter.

Revenue climbed 3.4 per cent to Rs 24,652 crore from a year earlier and the telco ended the quarter with more than 363 million customers across India, South Asia and Africa, Bharti Airtel said in a statement. In India, which makes up over 77 per cent of overall revenue, the company had almost 260 million mobile subscribers.

“Overall revenue momentum in India has been sustained during Q2 with a growth of 10.1 per cent Y-o-Y. This is primarily due to the strong performance of our non-mobile businesses, which grew in aggregate at 18.8 per cent Y-o-Y, albeit our mobile business has experienced a slowdown in growth due to free services being offered by a new operator,” Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, India & South Asia, Gopal Vittal, said in the statement.

Bharti Airtel said separately that it plans to sell a “significant” stake in tower unit Bharti Infratel, without giving further details. The company holds almost 72 per cent in the unit. Infratel shares climbed 2.4 per cent to Rs 378.7 at the close on the BSE Tuesday, giving it a market capitalisation of almost Rs 72,000 crore. Airtel shares gained 1.5 per cent to Rs 311.05.

Jio, backed by India’s richest person Mukesh Ambani, started commercial operations on September 5, with a free voice and data offer. Incumbents, including Bharti Airtel, were forced to slash effective data rates and even offer free voice calling on some plans. Existing telcos had started cutting rates even before Jio’s launch, all of which hurt key operational metrics such as average revenue per user (ARPU) and average revenue per minute (ARPM).

While the rate cuts helped Airtel to add data subscribers, it hasn’t been able to offset the fall in rates, thus lowering data revenue per user and sharply slowing the pace of data revenue growth, expected to be the mainstay at a time voice business has been slowing. The Jio effect added to the woes of Airtel – almost a third owned by Singapore Telecommunications – in a quarter that’s historically weak for all telcos as subscribers tend to make fewer calls, hurting minutes of usage (MoU).

Airtel’s ARPU for voice and data combined fell four per cent on quarter while MoU declined 0.5 per cent sequentially. Both voice and data ARPUs fell two per cent and 0.5 per cent on quarter, while realised rates for both services dropped 3.2 per cent and 10 per cent.

However, the company’s data customer base grew 6.4 per cent on quarter and almost 23 per cent on year, with data usage gaining 10.6 per cent on quarter. Data now accounts for 24.7 per cent of the carrier’s India mobile revenue, compared with 23.7 per cent in the previous quarter. Mobile data revenue during the quarter grew 23.6 per cent on year, sharply slower than about 60 per cent at the same time last year.

Airtel said the percentage of users leaving the network widened to 3.7 per cent in the quarter from 3.5 per cent a year ago due to competitive pressures.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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PayPal Acquires Happy Returns Logistics Business

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PayPal announced that it’s acquiring Happy Returns, a returns solution provider that offers online shoppers access to easier ways to send back unwanted merchandise to retailers without having to box it up and ship it themselves.

The company today offers a network of over 2,600 drop-off returns locations in the U.S., including those in over 1,200 metros and in every U.S. state.

It also has relationships with hundreds of brands that have been using its returns software and reverse logistics services. The company says it will continue to offer its returns experience to online retailers and shoppers as a part of PayPal.

Founded in 2015, Santa Monica-based Happy Returns’ value proposition was to take some of the overhead and cost out of the returns process for online retailers. Because online shoppers can’t inspect items they buy directly, online retail tends to see higher return rates, especially in apparel. Happy Returns found that online items are 3 to 4 times as likely to be returned than those purchased in-store, for example.

Meanwhile, today’s retailers have to compete with giants like Amazon and Walmart, both of which enable returns more easily for their customers by way of their large brick-and-mortar footprints — Amazon with Whole Foods other locations, and Walmart with its own stores. In fact, the foot traffic that offering an Amazon returns desk or locker system in-store has led retailers like Kohl’s and Stein Mart to embrace the enemy by catering to shoppers with Amazon returns in their own stores.

Today, the Happy Returns solution offers a combination of software, services and logistics that allows retailers to manage their returns through their own retail stores, by the carrier, as well as through Happy Returns’ “Return Bar” locations. These are found in physical retail stores like Paper Source, Sur La Table, Cost Plus World Market, and others. The service has been used by several digitally native brands, including Everlane, Rothy’s, and Parachute Home, among others.

Happy Returns has also been closely working with PayPal throughout its history, it notes. And notably, PayPal made a strategic investment in the business in 2019, as part of an $11 million financing round.

Following the deal’s close, Happy Returns will continue to work with retailers and shoppers both on and off PayPal’s platform, it says. The company’s co-founders, David Sobie and Mark Geller, and its full 120+ team will join PayPal and will report to Frank Keller, VP Consumer In-Store and Digital Commerce at PayPal.

PayPal is not disclosing the deal terms. To date, Happy Returns had raised $25 million in funding.

“This is an incredibly exciting milestone for our company, and it would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our entire team,” an announcement on Happy Returns’ website reads. “We are so proud of what our team has accomplished and are grateful for the tenacity, creativity and empathy Happy Returns employees bring to work each day. We are confident that the best is yet to come, and are looking forward to our next chapter as part of the PayPal organization.”

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MoneyGram and Coinme Partner to Expand Access to Bitcoin

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MoneyGram International, a global leader in cross-border P2P payments and money transfers, and Coinme Inc., the largest licensed cryptocurrency cash exchange in the U.S., announced the launch of a new partnership to enable the cash funding and payout of digital currency purchases and sales.

The partnership, which utilizes MoneyGram’s modern, mobile and API-driven payments platform and Coinme’s proprietary cryptocurrency exchange and custody technology, will bring bitcoin to thousands of new point-of-sale locations in the U.S., with plans to expand to select international markets in the second half of 2021.

“This innovative partnership opens our business to an entirely new customer segment as we are the first to pioneer a crypto-to-cash model by building a bridge with Coinme to connect bitcoin to local fiat currency,” said Alex Holmes, MoneyGram Chairman and CEO. “Our unique, global network is an incredibly valuable asset, and we’re excited to open our platform to Coinme as we increasingly look to capture new growth by monetizing our network to new use-cases.”

Global cash on and off-ramps ensure access to bitcoin

The MoneyGram and Coinme integration will provide a fast and easy way for customers to purchase bitcoin with cash and withdraw bitcoin holdings in cash. It is specially designed for customers who may be interested in utilizing bitcoin for the first time. With less than 20,000 cryptocurrency kiosks in the world today, the MoneyGram and Coinme partnership will further expand access to bitcoin and potentially other digital currencies by creating thousands of new point-of-sale locations to buy and sell cryptocurrency.

“MoneyGram has spent more than 80 years building one of the world’s largest P2P payment networks,” said Neil Bergquist, Coinme CEO. “By integrating its global infrastructure with our licensed crypto exchange technology, we can enable the purchase and sale of cryptocurrencies across its system using cash. This is a major milestone for the bitcoin and cryptocurrency communities, and for the millions of people who will benefit from a trusted, easy and affordable onramp to digital currency.”

The service will be available at select MoneyGram locations starting in the U.S. in the coming weeks. Additional countries and cryptocurrencies will be made available shortly thereafter.

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International Breweries To Train 500 Young Entrepreneurs Through Kickstart Initiative

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As part of its commitment to bringing people together for a better world and its objective of delivering impactful, developmental and sustainable projects, International Breweries Plc through its social investment arm, International Breweries Foundation has launched the 6th edition of its Kickstart entrepreneurship programme recently.

The initiative is targeted at enterprise growth and development for young entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35.

During a media briefing to update the public on the process of this year’s edition, Managing Director, International Breweries Plc, Hugo Rocha expressed delight that the Kickstart Initiative had evolved from the regional programme it used to be, to an inclusive national programme that reaches the six geopolitical zones and 36 states of Nigeria.

“Over the years, we have held the conviction that the energy, zeal, and brilliance of the youths of Nigeria who constitute about 70 percent of the total population should be tapped and channelled to productive use. This is the logic behind Kickstart – to promote a culture of entrepreneurship among young people through training, provision of capital and mentorship,” Rocha said.

Rocha concluded his remarks on a high note, stating that, “as International Breweries celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year, I am pleased that the results of a 3-year impact assessment study that we commissioned on Kickstart came out positive and gives us the confidence to continue to support young people to achieve their dream of entrepreneurship. We remain steadfast in our commitment towards the economic development of Nigeria”

Also speaking at the press conference, Chairman, Advisory Board, International Breweries Foundation, Peter Bamkole explained that International Breweries Plc and its foundation is dedicated to continuing to contribute its quota towards tackling the twin challenges of unemployment and poverty while promoting Decent Work and Economic Growth in line with Goad 8 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDGs).

“By creating Kickstart, International Breweries Foundation set out to be the nursery of innovation in a business where budding enterprise managers are groomed—held by the hand and taken through the rigour of entrepreneurial work. We aim to produce well-rounded entrepreneurs who understand and are prepared to put in the work it takes to do business successfully in a unique climate like ours.” Bamkole said.

Over the past five years, the Kickstart initiative has provided training, mentoring, and seed capital of N325,136 million (in total) for 274 grantees; 708 direct beneficiaries and 2,832 indirect beneficiaries across a wide range of business sectors; with the result of the creation of about 571 jobs and 1,392 new jobs projected across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.

Speaking on the mechanics of the award, Legal and Corporate Affairs Director, International Breweries Plc, Temitope Oguntokun revealed that the award is in three phases: the application phase, the training phase and the pitch fest phase which is the final selection of grantees by judges.

She explained that the Kickstart Initiative will be incorporating an expansive training module that will train 500 young entrepreneurs online, with a number of them going into the bootcamp. This year’s edition also features a streamlined search for entrepreneurs into Agriculture, Modular Retailing, Circular Packaging (Recycling), Technology, and Renewable Energy sectors.

“After a transparent selection process on the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) platform via the link, https://reg.smetoolkit.ng/program-apply/kickstart-nigeria-2021, which will open on the 20th of May, successful applicants will be equipped with critical skills and training on entrepreneurship by experienced entrepreneurs and corporate professionals during a 2-day boot camp. They will partake at the pitch fest where a panel of judges will appraise their proposals before final selection. Winners of the pitch fest will then be awarded grants at the awards ceremony in Lagos,” Oguntokun noted.

The press launch which held last week in Lagos had in attendance dignitaries such as the Director for Employment, Lagos State Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment, Mrs Iyabo Seriki-Bello, Director of Partnerships and Coordination for Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria; Dr Friday Okpara; Chairman, Advisory Board, International Breweries Foundation, Mr Peter Bamkole; members of the International Breweries team, past Kickstart Alumni, mentors and a host of others joining online.

Following its trajectory of success, impact over the years, and its extensive yet immersive plans for the 6th edition, Kickstart, under the auspices of International Breweries and its foundation is geared towards transforming Nigeria into an economic powerhouse through the impact of entrepreneurship.

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