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Airtel Africa Reports 9.7% increase in Customer Base to 147.7 Million in H1, 2024

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Airtel Africa Plc - Investors King

Airtel Africa Plc, a leading telecommunications giant in Africa, has reported a 9.7% increase in its customer base to 147.7 million as the penetration of mobile data and mobile money services continued to rise.

This has resulted in a 23.0% increase in data customers to 59.8 million and a 23.1% increase in mobile money customers to 36.5 million, the company disclosed in its first half of the year financial result.

Mobile money transaction value increased by 45.3% in constant currency with Q2’24 annualised transaction value of $116bn in reported currency.

Financial performance

• Revenue in constant currency grew by 19.7%, with reported currency revenues up by 2.3% to $2,623m. In Q2’24, reported currency revenues declined by 4.7% reflecting a full quarter’s impact of the Nigerian naira devaluation in June 2023. Q2’24 constant currency revenues increased by 19.0%.

• Whilst reported currency revenue growth was impacted by currency devaluation, all segments delivered double-digit constant currency revenue growth. Across the Group mobile services revenue grew by 18.3% in constant currency, driven by voice revenue growth of 11.5% and data revenue growth of 28.1%. Mobile money revenue grew by 30.9% in constant currency.

• EBITDA increased by 21.2% in constant currency, and 3.7% in reported currency to $1,302m, with an EBITDA margin of 49.6%, reflecting a 70bps margin improvement over the prior period despite inflationary cost pressures and foreign exchange headwinds. Reported currency EBITDA declined by 3.3% in Q2’24 as the full impact of the Nigerian naira devaluation in June 2023 was incorporated.

• Loss after tax was $13m driven largely by a foreign exchange loss of $471m recorded in finance cost before tax and $317m after tax because of the devaluation of the Nigerian naira in June 2023. This impact has been classified as an exceptional item.

• EPS before exceptional items was 7.0 cents, an improvement of 3.2%. EPS before exceptional items and excluding foreign exchange and derivative losses was 10.7 cents. Basic EPS at negative (1.5 cents) compared to 7.9 cents in the prior period, was impacted by $317m net exceptional loss on account of naira devaluation in June 2023.

Capital allocation

• Capex of $312m was marginally higher compared to the prior period. Capex guidance for the full year remains between $800m and $825m as we continue to invest for future growth.

• The remaining debt at HoldCo is $550m, falling due in May 2024. Cash at the HoldCo was $495m at the end of the period and the Group is well positioned to fully repay the HoldCo debt when due. Leverage of 1.3x in September 2023, was broadly stable despite the foreign exchange impact on EBITDA as a result of the Nigerian naira devaluation in June 2023.

• The Board has declared an interim dividend of 2.38 cents per share, an increase of 9%, in-line with our progressive dividend policy.

Sustainability strategy

• Our landmark five-year $57m partnership with UNICEF was launched across nine of the 13 of our markets providing access to educational resources, free of charge, on our way to reaching one million children through our programmes by 2027.

• Net zero journey continues with implementation of Scope 1 and 2 emissions reductions and development of a robust Scope 3 strategy, including stakeholder engagement.

Olusegun Ogunsanya, Group chief executive officer, on the trading update said “I am pleased to report a strong operating performance for the Group despite foreign exchange headwinds in many of our markets and specifically in Nigeria.

“The resilient growth in voice, data and mobile money usage levels reflects the inherent demand for these essential services across our footprint, and our six-pillar ‘win-with’ strategy continues to ensure we capture this growth opportunity by expanding our customer base and providing the platform to enable increased usage across the network. This strong momentum is supported by continued cost efficiencies which enabled further EBITDA margin expansion.

“As reported in July 2023, our results for the first quarter were significantly impacted by the changes to the FX market in Nigeria, introduced by the Central Bank. Whilst the changes are required for the long-term benefit of the Nigerian economy, the immediate impact of the naira devaluation continues to weigh on our reported financial performance in the period.

“Our focus remains to enhance long term value by continuing to drive sustained and efficient growth. Over the last five years we have delivered constant currency revenue and EBITDA CAGR of 17.1% and 20.7% respectively, allowing us to further derisk the balance sheet and improve profitability across the Group.

“Looking forward, the delivery of affordable and reliable telecom and mobile money services across our markets remains our key focus. Our strong operating performance continues to make us a stronger and bigger company, which is well positioned to deliver against the growth opportunities these markets offer.

“Despite the challenges of rising diesel prices in Nigeria, we aim to limit the impact with continued operational leverage and further cost efficiencies to deliver an improved EBITDA margin in FY’24 versus FY’23.”

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Ethio Telecom Sale to Foreign Bidders Halted; Local Investors to Get Priority

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Ethiopia has decided to halt the sale of its state-owned telecommunications operator, Ethio Telecom, to foreign investors.

Instead, the government will prioritize domestic retail investors before listing the company on the nation’s upcoming securities exchange.

Originally, the Ethiopian government planned to sell 45% of Ethio Telecom to foreign investors. This approach was abandoned in November after Orange SA, a major contender, withdrew from the bidding process.

Emirates Telecommunications Group Co. was also rumored to have considered a bid but did not proceed.

“There were bidders, but each one of them has left the process at one point,” said Abdurehman Eid, CEO of Ethiopian Investment Holdings, which is overseeing the sale along with the finance ministry. “At the end, we felt it’s probably better to halt the process.”

Eid explained that foreign interest did not meet Ethiopia’s expectations. “The priority now is to expedite the sale of 10% to retail investors, who are showing a huge appetite,” he noted during an interview at a sovereign wealth fund conference in Mauritius.

The focus on foreign investors will resume after Ethio Telecom is listed on the Ethiopian Securities Exchange (ESX), set to commence operations in October.

Ethio Telecom, the largest telecommunications operator in Africa’s second most-populous country, had a monopoly for decades. By January, the company boasted 74.6 million subscribers and recorded a profit of 11 billion birr ($191.6 million) for the first half of the fiscal year.

The shift in strategy underscores Ethiopia’s intention to leverage domestic investment capacity. The decision to prioritize local investors aligns with broader economic goals, aiming to stimulate local participation in major economic sectors.

This move is part of a larger plan to list five other state-owned companies on the ESX. According to Eid, proceeds from these divestitures will be utilized to reduce public debt.

Over the years, enterprises controlled by the government have accumulated substantial debt, leading to financial struggles.

The Liability Asset Management Corp., established three years ago, currently manages close to 780 billion birr in debt.

By redirecting the sale of Ethio Telecom shares to local investors, Ethiopia is fostering a more inclusive investment environment and setting a precedent for future listings.

The new strategy is expected to enhance domestic capital markets and provide more opportunities for Ethiopian citizens to invest in the country’s economic future.

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Nigeria’s Monthly Internet Usage Skyrockets by 501.99% in Just 5 Years

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Broadband Penetration - Investors King

Nigeria’s digital landscape has transformed in the past five years with monthly internet usage soaring by an astonishing 501.99%.

The surge in online activity, driven primarily by the proliferation of streaming services and other digital platforms, has bolstered the country’s internet usage.

According to data from the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), monthly internet usage has surged from 125,149.86 terabytes (TB) in December 2019 to 753,388.77 TB as of March 2024.

This exponential growth reflects a fundamental shift in how Nigerians access and consume information, entertainment, and services.

The COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst for this surge in internet usage, as lockdowns and social distancing measures compelled individuals and businesses to rely heavily on online platforms for work, education, and social interactions.

Video conferencing, online learning, and virtual events became the norm, driving up demand for internet access across the country.

“The year 2020 witnessed a significant surge in data usage… The increase in data usage is directly linked to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted normal activities, and most functions had to be held virtually including schools, corporate meetings, etc.,” stated the NCC in its 2020 industry report.

Streaming services emerged as a major driver of internet consumption, with platforms like YouTube, Netflix, and Spotify experiencing a surge in users.

Adetutu Laditan, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa at YouTube, noted, “We have a lot more users coming online and consuming more content… Trends are changing; digital is here to stay… For instance, more Nigerians are watching Nollywood movies on YouTube.”

The shift towards digital consumption was further fueled by the availability of a vast library of free content on the internet.

Nigerians, both young and old, have embraced online platforms for entertainment, education, and communication, contributing to the exponential growth in internet usage.

Karl Toriola, the CEO of MTN Nigeria, highlighted the changing consumption patterns, stating, “A lot of people are shifting their consumption from traditional voice and circuit switch services to data services…”

According to GSMA, 85% of Nigerians on mobile internet use it for video calls, 75% for watching online videos, and 54% for listening to music online.

The surge in internet consumption has not only transformed the way Nigerians interact with the digital world but also presented significant opportunities for economic growth.

The information and communications technology sector, buoyed by increased data service consumption, has remained resilient even during periods of economic uncertainty.

Despite the growth in internet usage, challenges persist, including broadband penetration below 50%, urban-rural disparities in internet access, and fluctuating internet speeds.

Also, the high cost of smartphones remains a barrier to many Nigerians, hindering widespread adoption of digital technologies.

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Telecommunications

Airtel Africa’s Subsidiary Repays $550m Bond, Achieves Zero-Debt Position

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Airtel Financial Results - Investors King

Telecommunications giant Airtel Africa announced that its subsidiary, Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands) B.V., has successfully repaid its $550 million bond in full.

This achievement marks a pivotal moment for the company, as it now stands in a zero-debt position at the holding company level.

The news came through a corporate filing with the Nigerian Exchange Limited, signed by Airtel Africa’s Group Company Secretary, Simon O’Hara, on Monday.

The $550 million bond, known as the 5.35% Guaranteed Senior Notes, matured on Monday, and the repayment was made entirely from cash reserves at the holding company.

Airtel Africa highlighted that this repayment is part of its strategic initiative to reduce external foreign currency debt. Back in June 2019, during its IPO, the group had a substantial $2.719 billion of external debt at the holding company level.

This indebtedness exposed the company to currency fluctuations and necessitated the upstreaming of funds to cover interest costs and principal repayments.

Through consistent execution of its strategy focused on strong free cash flow generation and successful upstreaming efforts, Airtel Africa has been steadily reducing its holding company debt over the past few years.

The culmination of these efforts is the achievement of a zero-debt position at the holding company level.

The company’s current leverage and capital structure underscore the success of its capital allocation strategy since its IPO.

Airtel Africa intends to continue reducing foreign currency debt obligations across its operating companies (OpCos) in line with this strategy.

Despite this significant financial feat, Airtel Africa faced challenges in its financial performance, primarily due to foreign exchange headwinds.

The company reported a $89 million loss after tax, translating to a $549 million loss net of tax.

This loss was mainly attributed to the devaluation of the naira in June 2023 and the devaluation of the Malawian kwacha in November 2023.

The devaluation of the naira had a profound impact on Airtel Africa’s financial results, resulting in derivative and foreign exchange losses amounting to $1.07 million during the year.

However, despite these challenges, the company’s board proposed a final dividend of $3.27 per share for the year ending March 2024.

Airtel Africa’s successful repayment of its $550 million bond and attainment of a zero-debt position underscore its commitment to financial prudence and strategic debt management.

The company’s resilience in navigating foreign exchange fluctuations reflects its robust operational framework and sets a positive trajectory for its future financial performance.

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