MTN Group revenues increased by 9,2% to R111,9-billion and earnings before interest, tax and depreciation by 6,7% to R46,1-billion for the year ended 31 December 2009.
However, movements in exchange rates in the year, mainly in the South African rand and Nigerian naira, had a substantially negative impact on the group's financial results.
Adjusted headline earnings per share decreased by 16,6% to 754.3 cents and, excluding the impact of the functional currency losses, increased by 8,5% to 878.9 cents.
The solid performance of MTN operations in most of the countries in which the group has a presence was achieved despite economic challenges, increased regulatory changes and growing competition, according to a statement from the group.
MTN's South African operations had a challenging 2009. High churn and lower gross connections in the prepaid segment resulted in a 6,4% reduction in subscriber numbers to 16,1-million at 31 December 2009. The lower gross connections were a consequence of the implementation of new industry regulations (RICA).
In line with RICA, mobile operators have to register subscribers` personal details and to date MTN has collected the details of 5,5-million prepaid customers.
The postpaid segment was not affected to the same degree by the RICA requirements, and showed subscriber growth of 9,8%, mainly because of the increasing use of hybrid packages.
MTN South Africa`s revenue increased modestly by 3,1% to R33,1-billion for theyear to 31 December 2009, indicating that those prepaid subscribers lost during the RICA process were not as meaningful to revenue.
Consequently, prepaid average revenue per user per month (ARPU) increased by R3 to R100 at December 2009, despite the disconnection of 1,4-million prepaid subscribers, as customers who remained on the network continued to spend.
Lower post-paid ARPU, which by R38 to R365, was mainly due to lower out-of-bundle usage and migrations to lower-value packages, reflecting slowing consumer spending within the more formal economy.
The EBITDA margin decrease of 1,7 percentage points to 31,4% at 31 December 2009 was mainly a result of increased distribution costs, following the integration of i-Talk Cellular and Cell Place as well as the impact of lower fixed to mobile traffic.
MTN South Africa continued to make substantial investments in its network to improve capacity and increase 3G coverage. Capacity increased by 12% on 2G and 22% on 3G networks with the integration of 496 2G and 659 3G base transceiver stations, while the 3G population coverage increased from 35% in December 2008 to 48% in December 2009.
The deployment of 5 000km of national fibre continued throughout 2009 with 245km completed along the Gauteng-Durban route. The southern and northern rings of the Gauteng fibre projects are expected to be completed by July 2010.
Although some progress has been made on improving the various IT functions, further improvements are required. Increased management attention is also being given to support systems, including customer care and call centres, in order to cope with the challenges.