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MTN in talks with MultiChoice

By Ana Monteiro and Loni Prinsloo Time of article published May 8, 2017

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Johannesburg - MTN Group senior executive Stephen Van Coller said his role has been changed to head of digital services at Africa’s biggest wireless operator, seven months after he joined the company as head of strategy.

The former investment banking chief at Barclays Africa Group has been asked to examine ways to boost profit from cellphone data use, he said in an interview at the World Economic Forum on Africa on Friday. One task is to hold talks with Naspers’s unit Multichoice about hosting TV entertainment on smartphones, he said.

“I don’t just want to give you a phone, I want to give you a phone with some services and products on it,” he said at the event in Durban, South Africa. “Just like in banking where you almost never go into the bank anymore, I want customers to do everything from their phone.”

In an email to employees seen by Bloomberg, MTN CEO Rob Shuter said he had identified digital services as an area that needs to be improved and had consequently assigned the role to Van Coller. Chief Operating Officer Jens Schulte-Bockum, who joined from Vodafone Group in January, will take over the role of strategy chief, according to the email. Van Coller retains his position in charge of mergers and acquisitions.

An MTN spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an email and phone call seeking comment.

Read also: MTN wants financial deals

The role change comes as Shuter gets stuck into the task of reviving Johannesburg-based MTN after a $1 billion fine in Nigeria and sluggish growth led to a first ever annual loss in 2016. He was hired by Chairman Phuthuma Nhleko alongside Van Coller, Schulte-Bockum and other senior executives in a management shake-up. On Wednesday, Shuter used his first quarterly report since his arrival in March to commit to major investments in MTN’s largest markets of Nigeria, South Africa and Iran.

Van Coller’s move “makes sense,” Peter Takaendesa, an analyst at Mergence Investment Managers, said by on phone from Cape Town: as most of those services will be similar to financial services, which is where he has the experience and background in.”

MTN shares fell 1.6 percent to R117.05 rand as of 4:33 p.m. in Johannesburg on Friday, valuing the company at R220 billion.


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