MTN announces leadership changes

MTN Group has announced that Gordian Kyomukama has been appointed as the new MTN South Sudan CEO, effective 21 January 2020. Gordian is a seasoned telecoms executive, with close to 30 years of experience in the sector, most of which has been with MTN.

He started in MTN Uganda as part of the Opco’s pioneer team and has also undertaken secondment opportunities in Rwanda, Cameroon and Ivory Coast, in the course of his tenure. Prior to returning to Uganda, he was Chief Technology and Information Officer (CTIO) of MTN Liberia.

Commenting on Gordian’s appointment, MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter said, “I would like to congratulate Gordian on his new role, and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Lily Zondo, who has been holding the fort as acting South Sudan CEO over the past few months. Lily will resume her role as MTN South Sudan Chief Financial Officer (CFO) with immediate effect.”

Changes in Cameroon

MTN Cameroon CEO, Hendrik Kasteel, will be leaving MTN at the end of March, due to personal reasons. He will serve out his notice over the next two months, and a successor will be announced when finalised.

Attorney General of Nigeria Withdraws USD2 billion Tax Demand Against MTN Nigeria and Refers Matter to Tax Authorities

On 4 September 2018, MTN announced that MTN Nigeria Communications PLC (“MTN Nigeria”) was disputing a claim for back taxes of approximately USD2 billion by the Attorney General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Minister of Justice (the “AGF”). Subsequent to this, MTN Nigeria commenced legal action in Nigeria against the AGF, which court action was most recently postponed to 30 January 2020.

MTN Nigeria has been informed by means of a letter received by its legal counsel and dated 8 January 2020, that following careful review and due consultation with relevant statutory agencies, the AGF has decided to refer the matter to the relevant authorities, being the Federal Inland Revenue Service (“FIRS”) and Nigeria Customs (“NC”), with a view to them resolving the issues. Accordingly, the AGF has withdrawn its letter of demand for the aforementioned USD2 billion that was issued in August 2018.

MTN Nigeria will consequently follow due court process to withdraw its legal action against the AGF and engage with FIRS and NC on this issue. MTN remains committed to building and maintaining cordial relationships with all regulatory authorities in Nigeria. Commenting on the news, MTN Group CEO, Rob Shuter said “we appreciate this decision of the Attorney General which paves the way to an orderly and amicable resolution of this matter.  MTN remains fully committed to meeting our fiscal responsibilities and contributing to the social and economic development of Nigeria and all regions where we operate.”

 

MTN realises R14 billion in asset sales in 2019

MTN announced its Asset Realisation Programme (“ARP”) in March 2019 which aims to simplify its portfolio, reduce debt and risk, improve returns and realise proceeds of at least R15 billion over three years.

Following on the proceeds raised from the disposals of its stakes in Amadeus, Travelstart and the ATC loan of R2,1 billion earlier in the year MTN has now concluded two further transactions bringing the total proceeds from its ARP to R14 billion thus far.

Firstly, MTN has concluded an agreement to dispose of its 49% equity holdings in the Ghana and Uganda Tower Company investments to a subsidiary of American Tower Company for $523 million, approximately R7.3 billion. This transaction is expected to close in Q1 2020.

Secondly MTN confirms that MTN Nigeria has completed the redemption of its preference shares with MTN Group receiving, in December 2019, an amount of US$315 million (cR4,4 billion).

Group President and CEO Rob Shuter commented “Following the completion of these transactions, MTN will have realised proceeds of approximately R14 billion within the first 12 months of this program. Realising proceeds from simplifying the group remains a major strategic objective and we expect further progress in this program in 2020.”

MTN Announces the Go Live Date of Mobile Money Service, MoMo, in South Africa

MTN today announced that its mobile money service, MoMo will go live in January 2020, allowing customers to send, receive, save and spend money as well as pay for goods and services using their mobile phones.

The announcement comes as MTN finalised its engagements with all the relevant regulatory bodies and authorities including the South African Reserve Bank.

MTN welcomes the positive conclusion of these engagements and looks forward to making MoMo available to all consumers via USSD functionality on *120*151# (MTN customers can dial *151# for free) as well as via App download in the Google Play store and the Apple App store by 30 January 2020.

“The introduction of this mobile money service is a pivotal step in MTN’s strategy and represents MTN’s participation in the next phase of increasing convergence we are seeing between financial services and mobile technology,” says MTN SA CEO, Mr Godfrey Motsa.

“We have been deliberate in selecting best of breed technology to enable MoMo. To this end MoMo will run on the Ericsson Converged Wallet and we’re exciting to be partnering with them across the Group,” adds Motsa.

Says Felix Kamenga, MTN SA Chief Officer of Mobile Financial Services, “We are delighted to make this payments service available to South Africans as many of our people remain unbanked. Our research shows that approximately 11 million South African’s remain unbanked, while 50% of the adult population remain thinly served. MoMo aims to bridge this gap with this innovative mobile money offering, providing a payments solution that encourages financial inclusion.”

“MoMo has been through rigorous testing and we are confident that consumers will reap the benefits of our efforts in this regard.  Our investment in our network means that we able to evolve with the ever-changing Fin-Tech landscape, making us the best network for mobile financial service.”

Kamenga also points to MTN’s mobile money successes in other African countries. “We have learnt what to do as well as what not to do and we believe that MTN has significant footprint in South Africa to reach underbanked and underserved communities still heavily reliant on cash to transact.”

“This represents an MTN Group effort as we worked with our counterparts in other markets, tapping into technical and human resources available from established markets which made this journey easier,” he adds.

During the initial phase MoMo will only be available to MTN customers and offers basic services but promises further innovation in early 2020 that aims to bring even more South Africans into the digital economy.

Users of MoMo do not need to have an actual bank account but must be a South African Resident, 18 years or older, with a valid South African ID. The user also needs to be an active MTN customer to qualify for selected promotional offers.

Initial functionality of MoMo allows users to:

  •    Send money to any working cell phone number in SA;
  •    Buy prepaid services like electricity, data and SMS bundles.
  •    Pay for purchases at selected till points.
  •    Perform Cash In and Cash Out transactions at any MTN store or Mobile Money Agents.

No minimum balance will be required. There are no monthly finance charges and no automated debits.  MTN customers can get cash back every time they buy something at selected Merchants and there will be a promotional offer of 100% bonus for users who buy MTN Airtime bundles using MoMo will get a free SMS notification every time they use the service. Customers may visit nearest MTN store and speak to a MoMo Ambassador for more information.

We look forward to demonstrating these features to South African’s and media in the new year.

“We see MoMo playing a significant role to both the man on the street, by empowering our customers to make positive financial decisions, as well as the South African economy by enabling enterprise development at the formal and informal level,” concludes Kamenga.

MTN’s latest Fintech innovation eases international remittances to Africa

Driven by the belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life, MTN is ramping up its efforts to enhance access to digital and financial services for its customers. The company’s latest Fintech innovation is a mobile remittance application, MTN Homeland, aimed at facilitating money and airtime transfers from Europe to Africa and parts of the Middle East.

Speaking about MTN’s latest Fintech offering, Group President and CEO Rob Shuter said, “The value of remittances from the diaspora exceeds Foreign Direct Investment in Africa. MTN has the largest Fintech and Telecommunication footprint in Africa and is therefore uniquely positioned to go beyond mobile communication by offering instant, low cost digital remittances. MTN Homeland is one more example of how MTN uses Fintech to expand its reach beyond its existing footprint and core business while driving meaningful impact to millions.”

With MTN Homeland, remittances can be made from Europe to Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Rwanda and Uganda, while airtime can be sent to Afghanistan, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia.

MTN Homeland also supports MTN’s contribution to the achievement of the tenth UN Sustainable Development Goal, which is to reduce inequality within and among countries. One of this SDG’s targets is to reduce the price of remittances to under 3% of the value of the remittance into Africa – MTN Homeland has been priced with that target in mind.

Commenting on the service, Serigne Dioum, MTN Executive for Fintech expressed his delight at the launch of the App, saying: “We believe this offering will not only make the lives of our mobile money customers on the African continent a whole lot brighter, but those in the diaspora too.” Dioum added that the company is working towards enabling remittances from the US, Australia, UAE and other corridors into Africa.”

 

 

Response to digital currency document circulated on the internet

MTN Group is aware of a proposal that has been circulating on the internet, regarding a digital currency product called ‘MTN Coin’. The unsolicited proposal submitted to MTN by an entity called Eureka Africa was not adopted, and we therefore wish to distance ourselves from the document, as well as the services and offerings it mentions, as these are not provided by MTN.

We continually engage and collaborate with various vendors, and if necessary, use official MTN channels to communicate such partnerships.

We request that publishers refrain from sharing this document or its contents on any public platforms.

 

MTN Group drives innovative rural coverage using OpenRAN technology

In the continued drive for innovation in cost-effective rural coverage MTN is pleased to announce that it has deployed over 200 commercial rural sites across its footprint, using OpenRAN technology. MTN is amongst the pioneers of OpenRAN – the technology which enables operators to achieve cost-effective deployments allowing for greater connectivity to previously unconnected areas.

MTN is projecting to deploy more than 5,000 sites in rural areas across its 21 operations, bringing 2G, 3G and 4G connectivity to areas that were previously unconnected. In order to realise this goal, MTN will rely on an ecosystem of partners who will bring their expertise to build and maintain the sites, utilising a full turnkey approach.

“Our Group Technology team has been pioneering OpenRAN, concluding field trials in Zambia in 2018 and deploying commercial sites from the beginning of 2019. We focus on creating viable new RAN solutions alongside the traditional deployments of network technology suppliers in order to accelerate the rural expansion in our markets,” said Rob Shuter, MTN Group President and CEO.

MTN operations in Uganda and Guinea Conakry are already benefiting from this technology, as MTN has also partnered with the likes of VANU, Parallel Wireless and NuRAN Wireless to deliver the technology.

As one of the foremost members of the Telecom Infrastructure Project (TIP), MTN carries out solution testing on all hardware and software elements at its state-of-the-art head office in Johannesburg, South Africa. The TIP initiative aims to define 2G, 3G and 4G RAN solutions based on general-purpose, vendor-neutral hardware and software-defined technology.

By continuing to accelerate innovation through initiatives such as OpenRAN, MTN continues to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world, solidifying its position as a leading mobile operator in the market.

Ayoba messaging platform, powered by MTN, reaches 1 million active users

MTN Group today announced that its instant messaging platform, Ayoba has reached 1 million monthly active users. Ayoba is an advanced communications application localised for African and Middle East consumer needs, under an independent Over the Top (OTT) brand with unique features for MTN customers. The app supports many local languages spoken across the MTN markets including isiZulu, isiXhosa, Pidgin, Yoruba, Swahili, Hausa, French and English.

MTN, together with its partners, is driven to improve access to affordable communications to ensure that people in its markets can reap the social, economic and developmental dividends of being online. Ayoba underscores this goal to bring more people into the digital world by providing them with affordable and simplified digital communication services.

Commenting on the milestone, MTN Group President and CEO, Rob Shuter said, “We believe that our customers in Africa and the Middle East deserve a communication platform that expresses our unique voice, honours our rich identity through local languages, and addresses our customers’ specific needs and challenges by offering a data-included offering for MTN users, Mobile Money transfers (coming soon) and locally relevant content via channels.”

The platform which was launched earlier this year is now operational in 8 MTN markets, namely: Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo Brazzaville, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Afghanistan and South Africa. Ayoba is also available across multiple markets on the Google Play Store and via the Ayoba website www.ayoba.me as an OTT offering.

As part of continuous efforts to enhance its offerings, Ayoba will be adding more features in the future. “Ayoba is also working on building an open digital platform that will enable third party innovation. This will ensure that we offer a rich diversified experience on the platform, enabling us to deliver more value to our users, empower local developers and create local experiences that are optimised for local communities,” explains David Gilarranz, CEO MTN Digital.

Some of Ayoba’s key features and offerings are:

  • Local languages: Ayoba is available in the top local languages in the markets where the offering has launched.
  • Chat now: Users can instantly send and receive text and voice messages with any of their contacts regardless of device type or network.
  • Security: End-to-end encryption means that messages in a conversation cannot be read by anyone else.
  • Chat with everyone: Users can send SMS text messages with anyone in their contact list, regardless of whether they’ve installed Ayoba or not.
  • Channels: Users can subscribe to Channels for locally relevant content across various categories.
  • Money transfers: Users will be able to make and receive payments via Mobile Money (coming soon).

Gilarranz adds that in addition to the number of exciting innovations on the cards Ayoba plans to expand to the rest of MTN’s markets, and other territories across the globe. Before the end of the year, Ayoba will go live in Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Benin and Rwanda.

MTN partners with Internet Watch Foundation to make the Internet a safer place for children

In its continued effort to fight against the exploitation of children on the internet, MTN Group yesterday announced the launch of its Child Online Protection initiative by signing a partnership with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). MTN is the first Africa-wide Telecommunications Company to partner with the IWF.

MTN believes that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life, and that all users of our products and services have the right to freely and safely enjoy the digital solutions we offer. Our Child Online Protection programme is in line with the MTN “We’re good together” initiative that was launched in October aimed at demonstrating how, through partnerships we can help to accelerate digital inclusion for the good of society.

MTN has a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of abuse and exploitation, including that of children. We are guided in our efforts by the work of global organisations and law enforcement authorities dedicated to managing this complex matter. We are a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact as well as the GSMA Mobile Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse. Our partnership with the IWF builds on our commitment to ensure the safety of children online.

“The free, open nature of information and communication technologies, while benefitting society, unfortunately also creates opportunities for people to develop online relationships with vulnerable children, join communities that harm children, and share sexually-abusive material on children. As MTN is expanding the digital sphere, both on the continent and globally, it is important to us that we ensure that all who are touched by our products and services are impacted positively, including children.,” said Rob Shuter, MTN Group CEO and President.

He added, “Online safety is a key concern for our business, it is for this reason that we have partnered with Internet Watch Foundation to create an online community that its safe and from which all users, of all ages, can benefit. Through the partnership, we hope to play our part in the fight against the exploitation of children on the internet and educating children and young people about the safe and responsible usage of ICT.”

“We are making every possible effort to contribute towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to end all forms of violence against children. We believe that together, we can realise the right of every child to live free from fear, neglect, abuse and exploitation,” he concluded.

The membership agreement will offer support services from IWF to MTN. These include alerts to MTN Group if a domain under MTN’s control is found to host child sexual abuse content. Such domains will be blocked automatically.

Using IWF’s confidential reporting portal, MTN encourages its customers and members of the public to safely and anonymously report online Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). IWF will investigate all reports and work with country partner hotlines or international law enforcement agencies to ensure that confirmed cases of child sexual abuse content on the internet are removed at source.

We also use our best endeavours to ensure that MTN’s third party content providers do not make CSAM available to our customers. Providers that offer such content will be considered in breach of their contract, and their contracts will be terminated.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO, said: “We’re delighted that MTN has chosen to demonstrate their commitment to a safer internet for everyone by becoming a member of the Internet Watch Foundation. It’s only thanks to partnerships like these that we’re able to drive forward our mission to eliminate photos and videos of child sexual abuse from the internet. As the largest mobile operator in Africa, MTN’s alliance with the IWF will significantly impact the spread of criminal imagery across the continent and further afield.”

 

MTN delivers steady progress despite challenging conditions in key markets

MTN Group today announced sustained momentum in its results for the 9 months to September 2019 with service revenue growing 9,6% and its EBITDA margin improving by 0,6% to 35,1%. During the quarter the group added 3,5m subscribers and now serves 244 million customers across its 21 markets.

Commenting on the update, MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter said: “Service revenue growth and improvements in our EBITDA margin continued into the third quarter. We remain committed to driving access to internet and financial services and in Q3 we added 4.7 million active data users and 2.2 million Mobile Money subscribers across the portfolio. Our Ayoba messaging platform is now available across five markets and is already recording 515,000 active users per month.”

Overall, solid performances in Nigeria and Ghana offset the headwinds in South Africa, which was impacted by the weaker consumer demand and changes in ICASA’s End User Subscriber Service Charter Regulations which have impacted out-of-bundle (OOB) usage. Notwithstanding these pressures, in the third quarter MTN South Africa saw an improving trend in both prepaid and enterprise service revenues. Consumer post-paid in South Africa remained strong in a competitive market with service revenue growing at 5,8%.

At June 2019 MTN had not recognised R393 million of unpaid revenue from its roaming agreement with Cell C and an impairment of R211 million had also been raised. Since the end of June 2019 to date, Cell C has made payments amounting to nearly R750 million, in line with an agreed payment plan.  MTN has continued its conservative accounting for the Cell C roaming contract and only payments receive during the third quarter were processed, and all against the outstanding balances as at June 2019. We continue to work with Cell C on an expanded network deal and are seeing good progress to date.

Providing an update of the asset realisation programme (ARP) MTN Group CFO Ralph Mupita said: “As at June 2019 we had achieved R2.1bn of the 3-year R15 billion target announced in March this year. We continue to make steady progress in this regard and, following American Towers Corporation’s announcement of its acquisition of Eaton Towers, we are in advanced discussions to dispose of our 49% holdings in ATC Ghana and ATC Uganda which we value at between R7bn and R8bn.

The post IPO lock up period of Jumia, in which we have an 18.9% stake has expired and, as at 29 October, this stake is valued at approximately R1.4 billion. We also continue to await regulatory processes for the redemption of MTN Nigeria preference shares that have a value of $315 million for MTN Group. Finally, Econet’s unsolicited offer to acquire our 53% stake in Mascom has been terminated following certain conditions of the sale not being met.”

The Group expects an improved performance in South Africa in 2020 as the effects of the End User regulation on OOB usage moderate, the enterprise division returns to growth and the Cell C situation stabilises. We are confident that in Nigeria we will maintain service revenue and EBITDA growth in line with the medium-term guidance. This will be delivered as we improve our data revenue performance with increased 4G coverage as we utilise our 800 Mhz spectrum. We are also pushing ahead with our mobile money strategy through the super-agent licence, with 66,282 registered agents currently and a target of 100,000 by year end.

Shuter concludes: “Although conditions have been tougher in the year, we have sustained our performance in 2019 and looking forward, we are focussed on executing our BRIGHT strategy to deliver sustainable growth in our operations and to simplify our portfolio to reduce risk and improve returns. We remain resolute and committed to building our digital operator strategy and delivering on our medium-term targets and dividend policy.

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