MTN Nigeria Subscriber Base Reaches 43 Million, Despite Aggressive Competition

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VENTURES AFRICA – MTN Nigeria discloses that its subscription base has risen to 43 million, still widely trumping industry competitors Globacom, who estimates its local subscription levels to be between 25 and 27 million, and Airtel whose subscription lingers at 20 million. This displays a subscriber rise of 3.7 percent over the last 12 months for the sector giant, MTN announced as it revealed its Group results for year-end June 2012 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

While the 3.7 percent rise exemplifies a good result in Nigeria, MTN also disclosed that its Group subscriber base spanning its 21 countries of operation had achieved an even larger increase in custom, with subscribers increasing by a substantial 6.9 percent – to an overall figure of 175,997 million – over the last fiscal year.

The figures show that Nigeria contributes 24.43 percent of the MTN Group’s overall subscriber base, despite the fact that of Nigeria’s 162 million inhabitants, there are currently only 100 million active telephone lines present in the country. This nonetheless displays a substantial rise in phone-use in the country over the past decade, as 10 years ago the country hosted only 40,000 active lines, serving to highlight the sector boom taking place in the country. Research suggests that Nigerian communications sector revenues are forecast to peak at $11 billion by the end of 2013. As such, MTN can look forward to further increases both in subscription numbers and revenue over the coming period.

Such growth may not be unchallenged, however, as MTN acknowledges that revenue and subscriber growth may have been bigger had it not faced such successful competition from its industry rivals in Nigeria. MTN made specific reference to extremely aggressive pricing competition that it had faced in the January-June 2012 period, and conceded that the company may have fell afoul of promotional activity by its competitors, who implemented a multiplicity of attention-grabbing recharge and freebie based bonus schemes during the second half of the year.

The Group also pointed to the slowing of the Nigerian economy alongside the removal of various subsidies (in particular the removal of fuel subsidies) in Nigeria as alternative phenomena that may have affected Nigerian performance up to year end June 2012, due to less consumer attention and spending in the Nigerian communications sector.

Nonetheless the MTN results disclosed a 4.4 percent overall revenue increase in Nigeria, said to be thanks to significant increases primarily in data revenue, but also in interconnect revenue which in turn owe their successes to increased numbers of smartphones in the consumer base, improved 3G coverage, and industry innovations in general.