MTN has grown its subscribers to 90,7-million – a 48% increase – while revenue has jumped 40% to R102,5-billion.
For the year ended 31 December 2008, the cellular company grew EBIDTA 36% to R43,2-billion and adjusted EPS was up 33% to 904,4 cents.
Subscribers in the southern and east African region, including South Africa, Uganda, Botswana, Rwanda, Swaziland and Zambia, reached 24,03-million.
In the Middle East and north Africa, which includes Syria, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Cyprus, subscribers stood at 26,34-million.
Subscribers in west and central Africa, which includes Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Benin, Guinea Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Liberia and Guinea Bissau, climbed to 40,27-million.
According to Frost & Sullivan, while the global telecommunications sector has taken a hit from the financial crisis, the African market has remained resilient. Low penetration rates and continued economic growth have sustained demand on the continent, which is good news for mobile operators such as MTN.
"MTN has continued to build on its success in the Nigerian market and is an even stronger competitor than it was twelve months ago," says Frost & Sullivan ICT industry analyst Lindsey McDonald. "Network rollout and the promotion of superior quality services have really stood the company in good stead."
MTN's subscribers in Nigeria grew by 40%, although the operator's market share only rose marginally from 43% to 44%. The number of subscribers in Ghana increased by 60%, lifting MTN's market share in the country from 52% to 55%.
"In addition to this growth, its acquisition approach has focused on ISPs, such as Verizon, which bring complementary skills to the organisation," Mc Donald adds.
She believes that the Verizon acquisition was particularly astute as the company has operations in a number of African countries. This has allowed MTN to expand its African footprint, which has been the operator's strategy.
MTN now has one of the widest operations on the continent through its aggressive expansion strategy. Its ability to enter new markets and roll out services quickly and at a generally high quality is a major competitive advantage.
However, Frost & Sullivan expects that contract revenues could come under pressure as people tighten their belts due to the financial slowdown. Longer sales and technology refresh cycles might also place pressure on revenues, while capital expenditures are likely to be trimmed.
"The financial crisis is now a reality for Africa and there is increased difficulty in obtaining project finance," McDonald warns. "Infrastructure rollout remains a priority for MTN, but it is likely that these plans will be slowed or that we could see more partnerships such as the one it has with Neotel. The announcement of shared infrastructure rollout is likely to be a trend followed by other companies as well."
She adds that there is heightened competition in the African market and South Africa is now seeing some of the tactics used in other African countries where free air time offers have become prolific. MTN has, however, been slow to respond to this.
"While it is not always necessary to engage in the same type of initiatives used by competitors, it is certainly very important to ensure that one at least keeps up with them, and MTN was apparently caught napping here," McDonald says.
MTN's market share in South Africa remained consistent at around 36% for 2008.
McDonald believes that, while the company's growth going forward may be slower due to the financial crisis, there are certainly still opportunities for MTN. The demand for telecommunications services in emerging markets, and Africa in particular, is so high that operators will continue to see further uptake.
"The enterprise data services market is likely to be the company's biggest area of growth in the coming year," McDonald says. "In geographic terms, Nigeria and Iran are expected to remain key to the sustained growth of the company."