Despite economic downturn, Airtel, MTN record $2.9bn revenue from Nigeria in 6 months

Omoleye Omoruyi
Consumers of telecommunication services spent at least ₦1.2 trillion on calls and data in the first six months of 2022…
Airtel, MTN record ₦1.249 trillion revenue in six months
Airtel, MTN record ₦1.249 trillion revenue in six months

Despite dwindling purchasing power and a constant ‘sapa‘ anthem on social media, consumers of telecommunication services spent at least ₦1.249 trillion on calls and data in the first six months of 2022.

This was contained in the half-year financial report of both MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa. This is a 17.77% increase from ₦1.06 trillion spent on calls and data in 2021.

In the first six months of 2022, MTN Nigeria disclosed that it made ₦850.33 billion from calls and data, an increase of 18.50% from the ₦717.56 billion it made in the corresponding period of 2021.

Airtel Nigeria disclosed that it made ₦399.39 billion ($931 million) from calls and data, a 16.23% increase from the ₦343.63 billion ($801 million) it made in the corresponding period of 2021.

The Airtel story

Telecommunications group Airtel Africa said Thursday, July 28, that first-quarter revenues had grown by double digits amid margin and earnings progression and a further strengthening of its balance sheet.

The company posted a 13% increase in reported currency revenues to $1.25 billion ($1.1 billion during the same period in 2021), with total revenues for mobile services and mobile money services growing by 18.3% in Nigeria, 14.1% in East Africa, and 11.7% in Francophone Africa.

Revenue improved in constant currency across all four of the group’s reporting segments, with mobile services revenue up 14.2%, voice revenue up 11.3%, data revenue up 19.8%, and mobile money revenue 26.5% higher.

Therefore, operating profits increased 20.6% to $425 million, profits after tax improved 25.3% to $178 million and underlying earnings grew 14.9% in reported currency to $614 million.

Airtel Africa has shown consistency in reducing its debt and growing its EBITDA. While the company’s EBITDA grew by 27% on-year, its net debt fell 13.57% to $3,055 million from $3,536 million. 

Airtel added that operating free cash flow grew by 10.3% to $473 million, while net cash generated from operating activities reduced by 13.2% to $388 million, principally due to increased cash tax payments from both higher taxes on declared dividends and increased taxable profits.

Its total customer base increased to 131.6 million across 14 African markets, up 8.9%, with increased penetration across mobile data and mobile money services.

Segun Ogunsanya, Group Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Africa
Segun Ogunsanya, Group Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Africa

Speaking on the trading update for the quarter ended June 30, 2022, the Group Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Africa, Segun Ogunsanya said:

I am pleased to report that the Group has continued to post double-digit revenue growth, margin improvement and strong earnings growth. I am also particularly pleased with our ongoing strengthening of the balance sheet, which continued after the period ended, with early repayment of $450 million of debt at the Group level.

He added: “As we flagged in our full year announcement, this quarter we have faced headwinds from outbound voice call barring for customers who had not yet registered their National Identification Numbers (NIN) in Nigeria and the loss of site sharing revenue in those OpCos where we recently sold towers.”

This is expected because voice revenue accounts for almost half of the company’s revenue. In 2022 FY, it accounted for 49%, and in Q1FY23, it accounted for 47% of total revenue.

During the period under review, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had asked telcos to bar outgoing calls from subscribers that had not linked their NINs to their SIMs following a directive from the Federal Government.

Airtel

Segun continues, saying that “Inflation is also impacting our cost base, particularly on energy costs, but our continued efficiency drives have ensured that we have still been able to increase our margins, albeit at a slightly slower rate.”

He further said: “After receiving the Payment Service Bank licence in Nigeria just a few months ago, it is a testament to our prior preparation that we have already managed to launch our mobile money operations in a few select locations without any operational issues. We are excited by the commercial developments and opportunities here.

“We also continued to invest for growth and have made a couple of major additional spectrum acquisitions recently in the DRC and Kenya in anticipation of continued strong data demand growth in these markets.

“We will continue to target growth ahead of the market this year and, despite inflationary pressures, our continued focus on cost efficiencies should also support margin resilience.

“Longer term, the opportunities for sustainable, profitable growth stemming from our under-penetrated markets for each of mobile voice, data and mobile money services remain hugely attractive, and we are confident of continuing to deliver on our growth strategy.”

Airtel Nigeria revenues up double digits in Q1 2022
Airtel Nigeria revenues up double digits in Q1 2022

According to the report, Airtel Nigeria’s voice revenue grew by 10.25%, from $478 million in the first six months of 2021 to $527 million in the corresponding period of 2022, while its data revenue grew by 25.08% from $323 million in 2021 to $404 million in the period under review of 2022.

Mobile money revenue stood at $159 million. Other revenue generated by the telecom giant for the period stood at $106 million.

The total expenses for the Q1 period were $645 million. These include a total tax charge of $98 million.

Meanwhile, Airtel’s net finance costs in June 2022 quarter grew by 55.67% (37.47% of the FY 2022 net finance cost) to $151 million from $97 million.

The company said in its quarterly report: 

Net finance costs increased by $54 million, as a result of $51 million higher foreign exchange and derivative losses and $6 million higher interest on lease obligations, partially offset by lower interest costs due to debt reduction (including the repayment of $505 million bonds in March 2022).

Fact: Airtel Africa is currently the most valuable stock on the NGX with a market capitalisation of ₦7.16 trillion, which makes about 26.4% of the entire Nigeria Stock exchange equity market.

On the last trading day, July 29, Airtel Africa closed at ₦1,905.40 per share price on the NGX. It began the year with a share price of ₦955 and thus has gained 99.5% on that price valuation.

The MTN story

Nigeria’s biggest public company by revenue, MTN Nigeria Communications Plc (MTNN), earned ₦950.1 billion in revenue for the first half of the year, reflecting a one-fifth increase over what it reported in the corresponding period of last year.

Salient points from the half-year ended June 30, 2022:

  • Mobile subscribers increased by 7.6% to 74.1 million – Added 5.7 million subscribers in H1 2022.
  • Active data users increased by 13.2% to 36.8 million – Added 2.5 million active users in H1 2022.
  • Active fintech subscribers rose by 87.3% to 11.5 million – 4.2 million registered (2.4 million active) MoMo wallets since launch of PSB on May 19, 2022.
  • Service revenue increased by 19.9% to ₦947.9 billion.
  • Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) grew by 22.1% to ₦509.3 billion.
  • EBITDA margin increased by 0.9 percentage points (pp) to 53.6%.
  • Profit before tax (PBT) grew by 24.9% to ₦268.6 billion.
  • Profit after tax (PAT) grew by 28.1% to ₦181.6 billion.
  • Earnings per share (EPS) rose by 28.1% to ₦8.92 kobo.
  • Capital expenditure (Capex) rose by 67.1% to ₦311.6 billion (up 78.6% to ₦204.5 billion, excluding right of use assets).
  • Interim dividend of ₦5.60 kobo per share, up by 23.1%.

Commenting on the results, MTN Nigeria CEO, Karl Toriola, said:

MTN Nigeria CEO, Karl Toriola
MTN Nigeria CEO, Karl Toriola

During the first half of 2022, we made good progress in strengthening the resilience of the business in the face of our increasingly challenging operating environment with rising energy, food and general inflation putting pressure on consumer spending. The conflict in Ukraine as well as implementation of a “zero-COVID” policy
in China, has also put a strain on global supply chains. To mitigate global supply chain and exchange rate risks, we accelerated capital expenditure for network expansion into the H1 2022.

MTN Nigeria CEO, Karl Toriola

Its voice revenue only grew by 2.91%, from ₦487.68 billion in the first six months of 2021 to ₦501.85 billion in 2022. But help came from data as it advanced by more than a half – That was responsible for as much as 75.4% of the expansion in topline.

“Growth was driven mainly by data revenue, while voice was the most impacted by the restriction. However, we have seen a steady recovery in voice revenue since April 2022 as more customers are reactivated, and gross connections continue to ramp up, supported by increased usage from the existing base. Overall, voice revenue grew by 2.9% YoY in H1,” Toriola said.

Read also: MTN’s MoMo alleges over ₦22bn fraud involving 18 banks

Toriola said that his firm committed “CapEx of ₦311.6 billion to accelerate the rollout of our 4G network, which now covers 75.3% (compared to 65.1% in H1 2021) of the population and accounts for 77.9% of data traffic (compared to 67.2% in H1 2021).

In addition, having acquired one lot of 100MHz in the 3.5GHz spectrum band from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), we are on track to launch 5G services across the country in Q3 2022. 5G technologies deliver significantly higher speeds and lower latency, potentially unlocking many new use cases for consumers and enterprises while improving network economics.

MTN’s data revenue grew by 51.6%, from ₦229.879 billion in the first six months of 2021 to ₦348.483 billion in 2022.

The CEO adds, “we will continue accelerating rural connectivity and expanding our 4G network towards achieving our goal of 80% coverage by year-end.”

The report says that data traffic grew by 79.3% YoY, with 4G accounting for 77.9% of overall
traffic, while data usage (MB per user) rose by 61.8%. The number of smartphones on the network continues to rise with the addition of about 3.4 million in H1, bringing smartphone penetration to 50.6%.

MTN Nigeria increases subscriber base by 7.6% to 74.1 million in H1 2022
MTN Nigeria increases its subscriber base by 7.6% to 74.1 million in H1 2022
The Fintech angle

Fintech revenue rose by 27.8%, and growth was broad-based across Xtratime – an airtime lending product, and mobile financial services.

MTN MoMo
MTN MoMo

Xtratime accounted for 93.8% of the revenue from fintech services, as active users rose by 87.3% YoY to 11.5 million, of which 2.4 million represent active MoMo wallets.

This, the company says, has helped drive growth in the total volume of transactions to over 124.3 million.

Having commenced MoMo PSB commercial operations, our goal is to build an inclusive platform for customers, ecosystem partners and other stakeholders. In addition, we plan to provide more advanced services working with ecosystem partners in the country.

MTN Nigeria CEO, Karl Toriola

Extra: Shares in the corporation gained 5.3% on Friday following the news.

Globacom and 9mobile do not release their financial reports, but according to NCC, MTN and Airtel have 66.39% of the market share of the nation’s mobile subscribers.

Are we looking at a significant increase from 2021?

Nigerians and other nationals within Nigeria spent ₦3.25 trillion on airtime, data, and other telecommunication services in 2021, according to the NCC.

That was a 12.74% increase from the ₦2.88 trillion that was spent in 2020 and a 31.55% increase from the ₦2.47 trillion that was spent in 2019, reflecting a sustained increase in the relevance of telecoms services.

In 2021, 173.56 billion minutes of calls were made in Nigeria, indicating a 15.07% increase from the 150.83 billion minutes of calls that were made in 2020. The number of SMS sent increased by 15.06%, from 8.22 billion in 2020 to 9.46 billion in 2021.

Commenting on the growth in telecoms usage, the President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said, “The year 2020 was the real COVID-19 period, and people were trying to graduate online.

“In 2021, there was a full blast in online activity. Working from home, an increase in online economic and commercial transactions which were all on telecoms infrastructure. This growth was meant to be. 2021 witnessed an uptake in online activities as people had to use their devices online.

“Data usage and calls increased. The growth might be stunted in 2022 because about 70 million subscribers cannot make calls. Perhaps data, yes. But the implementation of the SIM-NIN policy will have its effect.”

But, the growth in data revenue is evident, especially with MTN.

Voice revenue did not experience as much growth because the NIN-SIM linkage became a more serious policy, and telecom operators had been asked to bar SIMs that had not been linked.

Besides, there is a consistent move to online/virtual services – i.e. without physical communication – and voice and data services would be needed to facilitate and sustain this move.

Projections

The NIN-SIM linkage has become relatively easier, so more Nigerians will link their SIMs, knowing that voice services like staple foods – are indispensable.

With the proposed 5G launch this August, data services will improve, though may not become as widespread before the year ends.

So, while we may be looking at a possible 10% increase from the 2021 YoY results, we will need to factor in a consistent reduction in purchasing power and a recovery from the NIN-SIM stumbling block.


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