Airtel Africa Plc, a leading telecommunications company in Africa, grew its revenue by 14.2 percent to $3,908 million in the first quarter (Q1) of 2021, the company stated in its just-released financial statements.
The company reported growth across all its regions with East Africa leading with 23.5 percent growth. Nigeria followed with 21.9 percent growth while Francophone Africa accounted for 10 percent growth. See Airtel Africal financial highlights below.
Airtel Africa Financial Highlights
Reported revenue grew by 14.2% to $3,908m, with Q4’21 reported revenue growth of 15.4%.
Constant currency underlying revenue growth was 19.4%, with Q4’21 growth of 21.7%. Growth was recorded across all regions: Nigeria up 21.9%, East Africa up 23.5% and Francophone Africa up 10%; and across key services, with revenues for voice up 11.0%, data up 31.2% and mobile money up 35.5%.
Underlying EBITDA was $1,792m, up 18.3% in reported currency, and growing 25.2% in constant currency.
Underlying EBITDA margin was 46.1%, adding 181 basis points(210 basis points higher in constant currency). Underlying EBITDA margin for Q4’21 was 47.7%, an increase of 389 basis points in constant currency.
Operating profit increased 24.2% to $1,119m in reported currency, and by 32.8% in constant currency.
Free cash flow was $647m, up 42.8% on the prior year.
Basic EPS was 9.0 cents, down 12.6%, largely due to prior year exceptional items and a one-off derivative gain. Excluding these, basic restated EPS rose 44.5%. EPS before exceptional items was 8.2 cents.
Our customer base grew by 6.9% to 118.2 million, with increased penetration across mobile data (customer base up 14.5%) and mobile money services (customer base up 18.5%). The recent slowdown in customer base growth has been due to new SIM registration regulationsin Nigeria.
The Board has recommended a final dividend of 2.5 cents per share, making the total dividend for FY21 4.0 cents per share.
Commenting on the company’s performance, Raghunath Mandava, chief executive officer, said “In these challenging timesI want to say a huge thank you to all our employees, our business partners, and governments and regulators who have supported us, and in turn facilitated our continued support to the economies and communities we serve.
“Our performance has been strong, with reported growth of 13.6% in underlying revenue and 18.3% in underlying EBITDA, and constant currency growth of 19.4% and 25.2% respectively. Contributions to this growth came across all regions, with particular improvement in Francophone Africa, and across all our major services, with mobile money, data and voice each posting double-digit revenue growth.
“Our customer base also grew strongly for most of the year with new customer registration requirements in Nigeria stemming our onboarding of new customers in the final quarter, and these restrictions were lifted in second half of April.
“In line with our strategy of unlocking value in our mobile money business, we will soon welcome two new minority investors (The Rise Fund and Mastercard) in agreed transactions which value this part of our business at $2.65bn, as well as bringing $300m into the Group. We have also agreed to sell more of our tower portfolio, yielding yet more cash for the business.
“The Covid pandemic had eased during the course of the year, however, more recently we have seen a surge in cases. So far this has had no adverse impact on the business, though we will continue to monitor the situation closely.
“In these times, our purpose of transforming lives has never been more critical. It has always meant more than simply providing mobile and financial services; it is about our drive to create a sustainable future. To that end, this year the leadership team has worked to create our sustainability framework, outlining the role we can play and the focus areas where we can make the biggest difference for each of our business, our people, our community, and our environment.
“We will report back with our goals later this year and deliver our first sustainability report in 2022. The combination of bringing connectivity to underpenetrated mobile markets and improving financial inclusion through banking the unbanked, across our territories of operation, together provide us with a sizeable runway of sustainable profitable growth potential, and one we remain very confident of delivering.”
Mobile Operators Experienced 16,000 Outages in Seven Months, Says Minister
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami has disclosed that there were about 16,000 reported outages by mobile network operators in the country from January 2021 to July 2021.
The outages, according to him, were due to fibre cuts, access denial and theft, leading to service disruption in the affected areas.
The Minister who disclosed this in Maiduguri, during a recent town hall meeting, where he addressed the vandalism of power and telecommunications infrastructure, noted that the protection of the critical infrastructural facility was key to the nation’s security, economic vitality, public health and safety.
The event, which was organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture, was attended by Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State, his Deputy, Mr. Usman Kadafur, and other stakeholders. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, led some other ministers who were panellists at the town hall meeting.
Pantami, who was represented by the Commissioner for Technical Services, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Mr. Ubale Maska, decried the situation where telecoms installations that were destroyed in the attacks by terrorists had not been replaced as a result of the lingering insecurity and tensions in parts of the North-east.
As a way forward, the minister recommended continuous stakeholders buying-in and synergy among security forces.
He also urged the National Assembly to expedite the passage of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill for onward submission to the President for assent.
Pantami, also said the Fifth Generation (5G) network, that was recently approved by the Federal Executive Council, would be deployed in Nigeria in January 2022. He said when deployed, it would aid the surveillance of public assets against vandalism.
He said while the technology would boost surveillance against criminal elements vandalising public infrastructure across the country, other measures should be put in place to arrest them and bring them to book.
The minister disclosed that there were over 50,000 telecommunication sites across the country, which made it difficult to manage manually except through the deployment of modern technology.
Nokia and African Telecommunications Union (ATU) to Speed up Digital Transformation and the Knowledge Economy in Africa
Collaboration to leverage the power of ICT including 5G for Industry 4.0 (IR 4.0), connecting the unconnected and transforming lives; Both organizations reiterate commitment to shape policy, develop talent, and promote inclusion and diversity in Africa.
Nokia has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) to drive digital transformation and the knowledge economy for socio-economic development across the continent. The two parties will leverage the power of telecommunications, including 5G networks, to connect the unconnected and identify innovative use cases, as well as business models. In addition, the MoU will lay ground for both organizations to better help governments shape telecom policy, develop talent and promote inclusion and diversity. This includes women, as well as the underprivileged in both rural and urban areas.
The MoU was signed in Nairobi, Kenya, by John OMO, Secretary General at ATU and Rajiv Aggarwal, Nokia Representative and Head of Central, East and West Africa Market Unit at Nokia.
Announcing the partnership, Rajiv Aggarwal, Head of Central, East and West Africa Market Unit at Nokia, said: “We remain keen on supporting Africa’s digital transformation journey and by collaborating with the ATU, we strengthen this commitment. We will leverage our global technology expertise and insights on policy matters to positively impact the universal socio-economic development in the continent.”
Co-signing the MoU with Mr. Rajiv, John OMO, Secretary General of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), said: “Our vision is to make Africa a full and active participant in the global information and knowledge society by enabling universal access to ICT systems and services across Africa. Collaboration with a global industry leader such as Nokia is therefore crucial in this regard and will help us accelerate towards a digital transformation and knowledge economy.”
The MoU framework is guided by six tenets designed to facilitate this acceleration. These are:
- Sharing of best practices on telecom technology trends and developments
- Identification of innovative industrial use cases toward the Fourth Industrial Revolution
- Recommendation on implementation of emerging technologies and business models
- Promotion of connecting the unconnected with broadband
- Development of emerging talent for digital innovation
- Promotion of inclusion and diversity
Nokia has a long history of collaboration with international organizations and bodies across the globe. Regionally in MEA, Nokia recently partnered with UN Women to promote inclusion and diversity in Middle East and Africa. Nokia is also working with UNICEF as part of a shared-value partnership in Kenya to connect schools with broadband and empower children in rural as well as disadvantaged urban areas. In November 2020, Nokia supported the Forge Academy in South-Africa with the launch of a fully inclusive artificial intelligence (AI) laboratory to help students to become entrepreneurs in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the global digital economy.
Broadband Penetration in Need of a Leg-up – Coronation Merchant Bank
Digital technologies can promote growth in an economy partly due to their capacity to reduce costs and improve the quality of delivery. However, to achieve this, highspeed and reliable internet and broadband are required. The latest data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the industry regulator, show that internet subscriptions stood at 139.4 million in July, representing a y/y decline of -5%. Furthermore, we noticed a m/m decline of c.431,000 in subscriptions.
The decline in subscriptions can be partly attributed to the temporary suspension of SIM card sales to ensure the achievement of the National Identification Number (NIN) registration exercise. Additionally, based on our channel checks, the stress associated with the NIN-SIM linkage has resulted in customers abandoning SIMs of devices that are not their primary source for communication or internet connectivity.
MTN Nigeria (MTNN) accounted for the largest share (42%) of total subscriptions though down -1.0% m/m in July ‘21. Airtel (-0.5%) and Glo (-0.9%) also recorded m/m decreases.
Over the past year, there has been a visible shift to fibre broadband internet plans which do not necessarily need SIM cards to function. We note that some residential estates are increasingly using this service given the heavy reliance on internet services at home due to the newly adopted work-from-home approach.
In November ‘19, President Buhari launched the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy. The strategy is hinged on eight critical pillars. One of the critical pillars is developing a solid infrastructure by deploying fixed and mobile broadband infrastructure to deepen broadband penetration and drive an inclusive and vibrant digital economy.
Similarly, in September ‘21, the FGN approved the national policy for the fifth-generation (5G) network to boost the country’s digital economy. The national broadband plan set a target for the country to attain 70% broadband penetration at a price of N390 per 1GB of data (i.e. 1.3% of minimum wage).
The latest national accounts show that Information and Communications Technology sector grew by 5.6% y/y and contributed 17.9% to the total GDP in Q2 ’21. This is slightly higher than its contributions in Q2 ’20 (17.8%) and Q1 ’21 (14.9%). It also showed that telecommunications grew by 5.9% y/y in Q2 ‘21 compared with 7.7% in Q1 ‘21 and 18.1% in Q2 ‘20.
We note that investments into the sector have declined steadily. Capital importation into the telecommunications sector declined by 138.2% from USD944.1m in ’14 to USD417.5m in ’20. This can be linked to the infrastructure deficit in the telecommunications sector, the high cost of services and access devices, low digital literacy, poor perception of broadband value, among others.
Clear policy and regulatory guidance are fundamental to the optimal distribution and uptake of broadband services. The evolving work conditions, travel restrictions due to covid-19, the rise of e-commerce, and integration of technology in daily activities show that the rollout of broadband services has the potential to address various socio-economic challenges, grow the economy and create jobs.
Industry sources suggest that a 10% increase in broadband penetration can increase the GDP of an economy by 1.8 – 2.0%
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