In a trading update for Q3, MTN said the start date had been brought forward, and will support its ongoing transformation plans. Executive chairman Phuthuma Nhleko, who has been filling in as CEO, said that he will delegate more operational responsibilities to Gunter Engling, acting CFO and Stephen Van Coller, VP M&A and Strategy, in the coming months, and ensure that all outstanding senior management appointments are completed by year-end. Nhleko will revert to non-executive chairman after Shuter takes up the CEO job.
In addition to the senior management changes, MTN said it’s focused on operating efficiencies and improving customer experience, starting in its biggest markets Nigeria and South Africa. The first impact of the changes, led by the dedicated transformation office set up in recent months, should be apparent in the first half of 2017, the company said.
MTN also reported customer growth of 0.9 percent in the three months to September, for a total base of 234.696 million. While customer numbers fell 0.5 percent in South Africa, the total was up 2.5 percent in Nigeria, and MTN also saw growth in a number of other west African countries. The company noted that the revenue decline in Nigeria slowed to 1.2 percent, and it expects this to return to positive growth in the last quarter of the year. South Africa showed a 3.6 percent sequential increase in revenue and 200 basis point improvement in its EBITDA margin over the third quarter.
Over the first nine months of 2016, MTN increased capex by 10.5 percent to ZAR 21.23 billion, adding nearly 2,700 new 3G sites and almost 2,000 4G sites. This helped data traffic in the period increase 142 percent year-on-year, and voice traffic was up 1.8 percent. Data revenue at constant currency rates rose 21 percent annually in the nine months, to contribute 26.4 percent of total revenues.
MTN also announced that it has started repatriating capital long tied up in Iran due to international sanctions. It said it expects to complete the process within six months. In addition the company updated its full-year forecast for net subscriber additions to a total 9.0 million, for a forecast of 8.1 million in June, as stronger growth n countries such as Uganda and Iran, helped offset the slower growth in Nigeria and other markets.