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Airtel Africa Mulls IPO for Mobile Money Unit, Eyeing $4 Billion Valuation

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Airtel Financial Results - Investors King

Airtel Africa Plc, led by billionaire Sunil Mittal, is contemplating an initial public offering (IPO) for its mobile money unit, Airtel Money, in a move that could potentially value the division at over $4 billion.

Sources familiar with the matter revealed that discussions have been held with potential advisers regarding the IPO, with considerations for a listing as early as this year.

While Airtel Africa has not made a final decision on the listing venue, executives are reportedly exploring options across bourses in the United Arab Emirates, London, and Europe.

However, it is cautioned that the firm might ultimately choose not to proceed with the offering, and details regarding the timing and valuation of the IPO remain preliminary.

Airtel Money stands as the telecom operator’s fastest-growing division, experiencing significant traction in Nigeria, its largest market.

The expansion of its mobile money services in Nigeria aligns with the government’s efforts to promote cashless transactions, driving the division’s growth trajectory.

The potential IPO comes on the heels of previous investments in Airtel Money, with TPG injecting $200 million at a valuation of $2.65 billion in 2021, alongside a $100 million investment from MasterCard Inc.

The wireless carrier had previously hinted at a possible listing for the business within four years.

Africa’s burgeoning fintech landscape, coupled with a young population increasingly adopting digital banking solutions, presents a fertile ground for Airtel Money’s expansion.

As of the first half of 2024, Airtel Money recorded a transaction value of $56 billion across its operations in 14 markets, reflecting its significant market presence and potential for further growth.

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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Telecommunications

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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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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Telecommunications

Nigeria to Expand Internet Access with 90,000km of Fibre Optic Cable

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In a bid to bridge the digital divide and enhance internet accessibility across Nigeria, the Federal Government has approved an initiative to expand the country’s internet infrastructure by laying an additional 90,000 kilometers of fiber optic cable.

The announcement was made by the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, who said the project will bolster national connectivity and optimize the utilization of existing submarine cables landed in Nigeria.

Tijani explained that the project will increase Nigeria’s fiber optic cable capacity from the current 35,000 kilometers to 125,000 kilometers.

This expansion positions Nigeria to become the third-largest terrestrial fiber optic backbone in Africa, trailing behind South Africa and Egypt.

The project will be overseen by a special purpose vehicle (SPV), a separate legal entity established to manage the implementation, finances, and operations of the fiber optics initiative.

Drawing inspiration from successful public-private partnership models like the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS) and Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG), the SPV will ensure efficient governance and operations.

According to Tijani, the extensive fiber optic coverage will enable Nigeria to leverage the benefits of its eight submarine cables more effectively, thereby driving increased utilization of data capacity beyond the current 10 percent usage rate.

Moreover, the enhanced connectivity will facilitate the connection of over 200,000 educational, healthcare, and social institutions across the country, promoting inclusivity and broadening access to internet services.

The minister said the project aims to address the digital exclusion of approximately 50 percent of the 33 million Nigerians currently without internet access.

By expanding internet connectivity, the initiative is poised to contribute significantly to the country’s economic growth, with projected GDP growth of up to 1.5 percent per capita over the next four years.

Last week, a report by the Groupe Special Mobile Association revealed that 71 percent of Nigerians lack regular access to mobile internet.

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