Airtel Africa, a leading telecommunications and mobile money services provider, on Thursday announced it has signed a deal under which The Rise Fund, an impact investing global platform of leading alternative investment firm TPG, will invest $200 million in Airtel Mobile Commerce BV (AMC BV) at $2.65 billion valuation.
Airtel Africa stated in a statement signed by Simon O’Hara, Group Company Secretary, Airtel Africa.
The telecommunications giant said the money will be used to cut down the company’s debt and improve investment in network and sales infrastructure in its operating nations.
According to Airtel Africa, The Rise Fund will hold a minority stake in AMC BV upon completion of the $200 million deal. The transaction is the latest step in the company’s pursuit of strategic asset monetization and investment opportunities.
Airtel Africa further stated that it is in talks with other potential investors in relation to possible additional minority investments into Airtel Money, up to a total of 25 percent of the company’s issued share capital of AMC BV.
Key Financial Highlights of Airtel Mobile Service
- Generated revenue of $110 million ($440 million annualised), and underlying EBITDA of $54 million ($216 million annualised) at a margin of 48.7%.
- Year on year revenue growth for the quarter was 41.1% in constant currency, largely driven by 29% growth in the customer base to 21.5 million, and 9.7% ARPU growth.
- Growth in transaction value was 53.0% to $12.8 billion ($51 billion annualised).
Speaking on the deal, Raghunath Mandava, CEO of Airtel Africa, said “In line with our vision of enhancing financial inclusion, Airtel Africa offers a unique digital mobile financial services platform under the Airtel Money brand.
“In most of our markets there is limited access to traditional financial institutions, and little banking infrastructure, with less than half of the population having a bank account across sub-Saharan Africa. Our markets therefore afford substantial market potential for mobile money services to meet the needs of the tens of millions of customers in Africa who have little or no access to banking and financial services, and this demand is driving growth.
“With today’s announcement we are pleased to welcome The Rise Fund as an investor in our mobile money business and as a partner to help us realise the full potential from the substantial opportunity to bank the unbanked across Africa.”
Yemi Lalude, Partner at TPG who leads Africa investing for The Rise Fund, added: “Financial inclusion is a global issue that is most acute in Africa. Through Airtel Money, Airtel Africa has built a unique platform that is closing the gap between traditional financial institutions and the millions of unbanked Africans across the 14 countries where Airtel Africa operates. We look forward to working with Airtel Africa to enhance their mobile money services, broaden its use cases, and grow into new markets.
“With this investment in Airtel Africa’s mobile money operations, we are excited to expand The Rise Fund’s global fintech portfolio and continue to deepen our focus on improving financial inclusion in Africa and around the world.”
MTN Partners Fintechs as Talks With Banks Lingers
MTN has activated a number of new channel partnerships with fintech companies as the company continues meeting with the commercial banks on a new pricing structure agreement.
MTN’s initial meeting for the reduction of the charges held on Tuesday with the banks ended in a deadlock and is expected to continue until a new long-term agreement can be reached on a sustainable pricing structure going forward.
The telco said this in a statement on Thursday titled ‘Update on banking channel partners’ dispute and expansion of channel network’.
MTN customers were reconnected to banking channels after the banks blocked them on April 2.
This was agreed on the basis that MTN would revert to its previous cost of sales structures with banking partners, until a new long-term agreement could be reached on a sustainable pricing structure going forward.
The telecom company noted that it had been participating in a series of meetings with the banks since Tuesday, after the intervention of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, the Nigerian Communication Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria.
According to the telco, the reduction in the banks’ commission on USSD airtime is ‘international standard and best practice as scale is built along distribution channels’.
“We will provide a further market update once these discussions have been concluded.
We are confident that partners in the banking sector will work with us to ensure this process concludes as quickly as possible to the benefit of the entire industry,” MTN said.
It said it had partnered with new fintechs to expand the range of channels available to customers, adding that the partnerships would remain in place.
“The new channel partners include Sparkle, Konga Pay, Barter By Flutter Wave, Jumia Pay, OPay, Kuda, Carbon, BillsnPay, MTN On Demand, MTN Xtratime airtime loans (*606#), myMTN Web http://mymtn.com.ng and Momo agent *223#,” the statement said.
The telco expressed optimism for a mutually acceptable solution that empowered all ecosystem participants.
MTN Nigeria Completes Issuance of Series III, Series IV Commercial Papers
MTN Nigeria Communications Plc announced it has completed the issuance of Series III and Series IV Commercial Papers under its N200 billion commercial paper programme.
According to the telecommunications giant, the proceeds from the Series III and IV CP Issuance will be used to finance working capital and general corporate purposes.
“The CP Issuances were undertaken in line with the Company’s strategy to diversify its financing sources. In November 2020, MTN Nigeria obtained the approval of Financial Markets Dealers Quotations (FMDQ) Securities Exchange Plc to increase the Company’s CP programme from N100,000,000,000 to N200,000,000,000; following the very successful inaugura Series I and Series II CP Issuances in June 2020. The Company confirms that the Series I and Series II CP Issuances – of an aggregate value of N100,000,000,000 – have been redeemed,” MTN Nigeria stated in a statement signed by Uto Ukpanah, Company Secretary, MTN Nigeria.
“The book build for the Series III and Series IV CP Issuances opened on Thursday, 11th March 2021 and closed on Friday, 19th March 2021. The Series III CP cleared at a discount rate of 6.7652 percent and raised N19,765,447,000; and the Series IV cleared at a discount rate of 7.5547 percent and raised N53,742,807,000. The aggregate CP Issuance is N73,508,254,000 across both tenors.”
Power Tussle; MTN Airtime Sales Resume as Nigerian Govt Intervenes in Bank Feud
MTN resumed airtime sales on banking channels Sunday after banks lifted a ban on the telco following an intervention by the Nigerian government.
Nigerian banks on Friday barred the Johannesburg-based firm from using their USSD platform to conduct business as both sides scuffled over airtime sales fees.
The three-day-long feud started after MTN, which has the biggest share of Nigeria’s telecoms market, reduced the rate it pays banks for each transaction from 4.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent.
The lenders removed the telecom giant from their platforms, disallowing MTN users from accessing their bank accounts to recharge their phones.
As subscribers expressed their frustration, MTN advised them to seek alternative ways of recharging. On Saturday, the firm announced alternative channels for its airtime sales, including a host of fintech platforms led by Flutterwave.
Service resumed Sunday afternoon after MTN agreed to revert to “status quo” at the request of the Minister of Communications, the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria while a permanent solution is being worked out, the news media gathered.
“The CBN Governor’s intervention is in line with our core values. We acceded to his request and that of our Minister. We will continue to live our values that ‘everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life’,” Carl Toriola, MTN Nigeria chief executive, said Sunday.
The telco told PREMIUM TIMES its firm’s pursuit has always found motivation in leveraging business to the fullest in the interest of customers and the Nigerian market.
“MTN’s intention has always been geared towards business optimization to the benefit of our customers and indeed the country,” Mr Toriola said.
“This is evidenced by the fact that through the USSD imbroglio, we never denied access to our customers. In the current case, customers have been denied access to services by the banks despite having monies in their accounts to purchase those services. MTN will naturally do all it can to minimise customer pain. It is not just about revenue for us. The good of our customers influence every decision we take.”
The Banks had said earlier that they were responding to check MTN’s “excesses”.
However, a source said, “the truth is that if MTN gets away with this, banks should expect further reduction if not checked. Over 60 per cent of airtime vending by telcos today are done electronically through the banks.”
They argued that the percentage MTN pays is lower than that of other telcos, but MTN insiders, who also requested to speak anonymously, defended the network’s decision.
“We did a commission optimization which saw the banks commission reducing from an average of 3.5% to 2.5%. This reduction is standard because the volumes compensate for the reduction,” MTN source said.
“We reviewed our commissions downwards. Most of the banks are not connected to us directly but through a third party – our convenience channel partners and aggregators.
“Communication was shared with the partners who in turn wrote to the banks (the banks here are agents to the partner). Our contract with the partners allows us to do this;
“The channels were blocked yesterday midnight leaving our customers stranded. Interesting that the bank MDs met and quickly took a decision. This references our conversation around NCC standing in the gap for the industry. Subscribers to telecommunications are being denied services by the banks even when they have money in their accounts;
“Zenith Bank is connected directly to MTN – their earnings is at 2.70%. They are happy and have not blocked us;
“Banks on ‘MTN On Demand’ had an uplift in their commission from 2.0% to 2.75% yet have blocked services;
“Banks with direct connection to us through ‘MTN On Demand’ got a commission uplift.” The source explained.
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