File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

MTN group expects to add 23.7 million new customers for the full year to December this year‚ it said on Thursday. The company’s initial forecast was to add 21.25-million new subscribers this year.

The revised forecast comes after a “solid operational performance” in the three months to September. The group’s total customers grew nearly 4% to 182.7-million across its 21 operations in Africa and the Middle East.

The company’s CEO Sifiso Dabengwa said the performance was underpinned by “solid operational management and the rollout of appealing value propositions” despite aggressive pricing competition‚ regulations and economic challenges across its markets.

He said that MTN had continued to improve shareholder returns‚ develop existing and new revenue streams‚ optimise costs and improve customer experience. “Most relevant during the quarter was the execution of competitive products and services in response to aggressive price declines in the market‚ a continued focus on data growth and improved network roll out”‚ said Dabengwa.

“It seems like they maintained or slightly increased market share in their major markets‚” Mia Kruger‚ a portfolio manager at Kruger International‚ said. “Generally‚ the third quarter isn’t their best quarter so I think it’s satisfactory‚ given what they have been facing‚” she said.

In SA‚ MTN’s customers rose 4.1% to 24.9 million‚ mainly attributable to a strong performance in the prepaid segment.

Data‚ a key focus for mobile network operators‚ delivered a “satisfactory performance” despite strong competition which has seen tariffs come down across the market‚ said Dabengwa.

In Nigeria‚ where the company is spending about R10bn of its total capital expenditure of R24.4bn this year‚ subscribers rose 5.7% to 45.6 million. This was attributable to “successful competitive offerings‚ which saw significant price declines driven by promotional activities.”

However‚ the company said parts of the network have experienced some deterioration in congestion levels.

“Network quality and capacity remains a priority and are being addressed through a comprehensive network rollout programme. This will be a key focus over the next six to 12 months‚” Dabengwa said.

In Iran‚ MTN warned that while the unit continued to deliver a sound operational performance despite an increasingly challenging economic and political environment‚ fourth quarter earnings would be affected by the local foreign exchange depreciation. MTN Irancell grew subscribers by 2.8% to nearly 39.4-million.

“Looking forward to the balance of the year‚ acceleration of our network expansion will be a key priority across the majority of our operations‚ as network quality remains a key enabler for our business‚” said Dabengwa. - I-Net Bridge