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Nigeria’s Mobile Subscriptions Drop by 5.4 Million in Q1 2024, NIN Enforcement Blamed

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Active mobile subscriptions dropped by 5.4 million in the first quarter of 2024, according to data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

The total active mobile subscriptions stood at 219 million, a 2.4% decrease from the previous quarter’s 224.4 million.

This decline has been directly attributed to the stringent enforcement of the National Identity Number (NIN)-Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) linkage policy by the NCC.

Since its inception, the policy has aimed to bolster national security measures and enhance accountability within the telecom sector by mandating the linkage of mobile phone numbers to individuals’ unique NINs.

The regulatory directive, which came into effect in December 2023, required telecom operators to deactivate SIMs not linked to their owners’ NINs by February 28, 2024. The process unfolded in three phases with subsequent deadlines set for March 29 and April 15.

However, due to various challenges and requests for extensions, the final phase was postponed to July 31.

During this period, over 40 million lines, encompassing both active and multiple lines registered to a single subscriber, were reportedly barred by telecom operators.

The majority of these lines were found to be inactive, suggesting a considerable impact on non-compliant subscribers.

The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) disclosed that as of April 2024, a total of 105 million Nigerians had enrolled for the NIN, indicating a widespread response to the government’s initiative to bolster identity verification processes.

In April 2022, the telecom sector experienced a similar wave of disruption as operators commenced the initial phase of enforcing the SIM-NIN rule.

During that period, over 72.77 million active telecom lines were barred, signaling a pivotal moment in regulatory compliance efforts.

MTN Nigeria, the country’s largest telecom operator, revealed in its first-quarter 2024 financial report that it had deactivated 8.6 million lines due to non-compliance with the NIN mandate.

However, the company emphasized its efforts to minimize the net impact of barred subscribers through effective customer management strategies.

Karl Toriola, CEO of MTN Nigeria, underscored the resilience of the company’s customer value initiatives in mitigating subscriber churn and driving gross connections amid regulatory challenges.

Despite the substantial drop in active subscriptions, MTN Nigeria closed the quarter with a total of 77.7 million subscribers, showcasing the effectiveness of its retention strategies.

As Nigeria navigates the evolving telecom landscape amidst regulatory reforms, stakeholders anticipate further measures to enhance compliance and fortify the integrity of the country’s telecommunications ecosystem.

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

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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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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Naira Devaluation Spurs Airtel Africa’s $549 Million Forex Loss

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Airtel Financial Results - Investors King

Telecommunications giant Airtel Africa Plc reported foreign exchange loss of $549 million that contributing to an overall loss after tax of $89 million for its full fiscal year ending March 2024.

The telecom company’s latest financial report, released on Thursday, highlighted the significant impact of currency devaluations on its bottom line.

The devaluations of both the naira in June 2024 and the Malawian kwacha in November 2023 resulted in substantial forex losses, exacerbating the financial challenges faced by the company.

The $89 million loss after tax was primarily attributed to the $549 million net of tax impact of exceptional derivative and foreign exchange losses.

This setback underscores the vulnerability of companies operating in economies with volatile currency markets.

Despite the forex challenges, Airtel Africa’s reported revenue decline by 5.3 percent to $4.98 billion. The depreciation of the naira played a significant role in this decline.

However, the company noted that its revenue in constant currency actually grew by 20.9 percent, with fourth-quarter growth accelerating to 23.1 percent.

Airtel Africa emphasized that Nigerian constant currency revenue growth saw a notable acceleration to 34.2 percent in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, despite the challenging economic backdrop marked by currency fluctuations.

The telecommunications sector, like many others, is sensitive to currency devaluations, as it impacts the cost of imported equipment, infrastructure, and services.

Airtel Africa’s experience underscores the importance for multinational corporations to navigate and mitigate currency risks effectively in markets prone to volatility.

As Nigeria and other countries grapple with economic uncertainties and currency fluctuations, companies operating within these environments must employ robust risk management strategies to safeguard against potential forex losses and maintain financial stability.

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