Data war: Airtel leads MTN, others

October 30, 2019
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With about $199 million raked from data sales in Nigeria alone in six months, translating to a whopping 76% higher than the $133 million in 2018 as against the 37% posted by MTN, Airtel is winning the data market in Nigeria.

Airtel, Nigeria’s second largest mobile phone company appears to have resigned to losing the voice market share to MTN, but it’s clearly winning the internet data market going by its recently released half-year financial results.
The company reported a revenue of $640 million, a 23 per cent rise compared to the year before, and data accounted for most of the profit made by the company.

Much of Airtel’s earnings and performance come from its Nigerian operations, posting a revenue growth 8.4 per cent across its African operations with a revenue of $1.6bn in the first 6 months of 2019 as against $1.5bn made last year.

According to the company, “Data revenue growth was driven by the accelerated rollout of our 4G network, with 62 per cent of the sites being 4G, an increase in data customer base by 20.8 per cent and ARPU growth of 43.0 per cent.”

Through aggressive and appealing advertising, it reported that “during the period, 4G data usage increased by almost 20 times.” Airtel’s Data revenue now accounts for 31 per cent of Airtel Nigeria revenue, compared to 22 per cent in the prior year. “The solid expansion of the 4G network is a pillar of strong growth in Nigeria,” the company asserts.

According to its CEO, Raghunath Mandava, “Our investments ahead of the industry in LTE network along with our simple and intuitive customer journeys have helped grow data consumption by 81 per cent and data revenue growth by 37.8 per cent.” It’s also replicating this model across other African countries.

Mandava again, “Over the last 6 months we launched 4G services in Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger, and 4G sites now account for 58 per cent of total sites. Now we are ready to launch in Tanzania, thereby making 4G services available across all our 14 countries.”

Airtel also proposed a half–year dividend of $0.03 per share or N10.8 resulting in a dividend yield of 3.5 per cent (based on the current share price of N308). The stock is also far from its post–listing high of N350. If you are looking to buy, then look further than Airtel, as the stock trades on very thin volume. You are better off taking a bet on Airtel winning the data war, for now.

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