The MTN Group, Africa’s largest wireless carrier, increased sales from operations by 10 percent from a year earlier and added 2.5 million subscribers in the third quarter despite regulatory pressures in its largest markets that have wiped out more than two-thirds of the company value in recent years.
According to Bloomberg, the Johannesburg-based firm boosted customer base to 225.4 million.
The company has been embroiled in regulatory disputes in its largest markets, including Nigeria, Iran, and Ghana.
“MTN recorded an improved operational performance in many markets in the third quarter with group service revenue up 10 percent year-on-year, ahead of our medium-term target of upper-single-digit growth,” its Chief Executive Officer Rob Shuter said in a statement yesterday.
“These results were delivered in challenging operating and currency conditions.”
The company that was trading at record highs of R240 share before its first spat with the Nigerian regulators in 2015, is now at around R85 after clashes over unregistered sim cards, the transfer of monies from the country and tax concerns.
The latest accusation was that MTN illegally transferred $8.1 billion of cash from Nigeria.
The telecom company has since denied any wrongdoing.
The company is going ahead with plans to list in the West African nation, in spite of the dispute, Shuter said.
The decision to sell shares as part of negotiations relating to a $5.2 billion fine for unregistered sim cards.
During the quarter MTN also listed its Ghanaian business to get access to spectrum, and could potentially sell some of its Ugandan business to local people to ensure the renewal of its license in that country.
NCC to intervene in 9mobile crisis
The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said it has taken steps to address the crisis rocking 9mobile in the interest of subscribers, investors and the Nigerian economy. He said the NCC would do everything possible to ensure that the issue is resolved amicably.
Danbatta explained that although the issue between Teleology Holdings and Teleology Nigeria was yet to reach the NCC for mediation, he, however, said proactive steps had been taken by the Commission, in line with its regulatory mandate to avert destabilisation of the telecoms industry.
Danbatta said the commission had already made some moves to address the situation in the interest of 9mobile subscribers and the telecoms industry.
“The bone of contention is between Teleology Holdings Limited and Teleology Nigeria, over some disagreements, but as a regulator that is both customer and investor-centric, we have set up some measures to resolve the issue between the two parties.
“We need stability in the telecoms industry and we will do everything possible to protect the interest of both the 9mobile subscribers and its investors and ensure there is no disruption of services,” Danbatta said.
Industry stakeholders who are keenly following the development at 9mobile advised NCC not to allow Teleology Holdings to pull out of the deal.
“Teleology must not be allowed to truncate the 9mobile transition deal. It must complete what it started and deliver on the promises he made to Nigerians when it rolled out its business model on how to manage 9mobile and bring it back to profitability within few years of taking over,” an industry expert who did not want his name on print said.
Teleology Holdings Limited, in a statement, had alleged that Teleology Nigeria Limited had declined to execute a management services contract with the former, which led to its pulling out of the deal last week. According to the statement, “Such a management contract is the typical arrangement with which multinationals operate in Nigeria and is the template with which EMTS engaged Etisalat prior to its (Etisalat) departure.
“It is the same template with which Bharti Airtel is engaged with its local joint venture, Airtel Nigeria and with which MTN Group of South Africa is engaged with its local joint venture, MTN Nigeria.
“It is on the basis of such management agreements that such multinationals are legally able to impact on the operations of the local operator including sourcing of relevant expertise and financing as well as paying dividends to offshore shareholders.”
Why Adrian Wood exited 9mobile
9Mobile which was recently acquired by Teleology Nigeria has shed more light on the circumstances, that led to the departure of Teleology Holdings ( owned by Adrian Wood) from the telco. In a press release issued on Thursday, The company gave the following reasons for his exit.
“While every partner in the consortium was delivering and meeting their obligations to the partnership in terms of financial resources, physical availability for crucial meetings and extensive network to help build the business, Mr. Adrian Wood’s Teleology Holdings Limited, which only owned a minority stake in Teleology Nigeria Limited, failed severally and wholly to meet theirs.Mr. Wood was not personally present for all the critical presentations made by the consortium during the bid process”
The company also accused the ex MTN CEO of being unable to provide financing from Swiss Bank UBS, as was promised.
“Mr Wood was not personally present for all the critical presentations made by the consortium during the bid process and failed abjectly with his financing arrangements with Swiss-based UBS Bank.”
Finally, 9Mobile out-rightly accused Adrian Wood of gross incompetence.
“It is regrettable that Mr. Wood has allowed the same avarice, rascality, impatience and knavery that characterized his turbulent association with, and inglorious exits from several other companies to manifest again so early in 9mobile.”
Consortium to build new cement plant in Sokoto
Just a week after the listing of shares from the almost $1 billion Merger between BUA Kalambaina Cement Company and Cement Company of Northern Nigeria where it also assumed majority stakes in the enlarged company, BUA Group has announced that it has signed another contract with world’s renowned cement manufacturing company, CBMI, for the construction of a new 3million metric tonnes per annum Kalambaina Cement Line 2 in Sokoto State, North West Nigeria.
This comes barely 90 days after the completion of another 3million MTPA BUA Obu Cement line 2 in Okpella, Edo State, Southern Nigeria and 7 months after the commissioning of its 1.5million MTPA Kalambaina Cement Plant line 1 in Sokoto state thus bringing BUA Cement’s total installed capacity to 11million MTPA by the time the new project Is completed.
Speaking at the contract signing ceremony for the plant in Sokoto State, Abdul Samad Rabiu, Executive Chairman/CEO, BUA Group and Chairman of CCNN, disclosed that the construction of the new 3million mtpa kalambaina line was in line with BUA Cement’s strategic midterm expansion programme. According to Abdul Samad, the Nigerian market is still greatly underserved and with the projected growth in major infrastructure projects and spending over the next few years, it is important that local manufacturers are able to scale effectively to meet current and projected demand. Rabiu also added that this partnership between BUA and Sinoma CBMI is not the first as they were responsible for constructing the first BUA Kalambaina plant in Sokoto State. “We are very confident that Sinoma CBMI possesses the necessary technical expertise given their track records in deploying cement plants across the world. ”Mr Tong Laigou, Chairman of CBMI, signed on behalf of CBMI construction.
On BUA becoming Nigeria’s second largest cement producer by volume, Rabiu said that BUA’s strategic cement expansion programme which focused on key regional and export markets has seen it become the second largest producer of cement by volume in Nigeria this year whilst solidifying BUA Cement’s leadership positions in the North West, South South and South East Markets of Nigeria. “We will continue to deliver quality products which have earned us the ‘King of Strength and King of Cement’ moniker amongst block makers who form the largest users of cement in Nigeria”
It would be recalled that the Security and Exchange Commission had recently approved the merger of the Cement Company of Northern Nigeria Plc with BUA’s Kalambaina Cement Company Limited of Nigeria that saw the enlarged CCNN become Nigeria’s 12th largest company by market capitalisation.
BUA Group’s current cement assets include the 6million MTPA Obu Cement I & II plants in Okpella, Edo State, the 500,000mtpa Edo Cement Plant, the 1.5million MTPA Kalambaina Cement Plant and the 500,000 Sokoto Cement Plant. The Group also owns over 90% stake in the publicly listed Cement Company of Northern Nigeria Plc and is widely acclaimed for its high capacity utilisation, efficiency and quality of its products.
Teleology Pulls Out of 9mobile
Teleology Holdings, the new owners of 9mobile, have withdrawn from further participation in the 9mobile takeover. Teleology acquired 9mobile, known then as Etisalat, in November 2018 — about eight months after it made an initial $500million non-refundable deposit to acquire the telco, and a cumulative 10 months after the takeover was billed to have been finalised.
Etisalat, the fourth of Nigeria’s GSM service providers, began trading as ‘9mobile’ following the financial consequences of defaulting in the servicing of a syndicated loan of $1.2billion owed a consortium of 13 Nigerian banks. In the aftermath, its erstwhile technical partners Etisalat exited the business and requested that the use of the ‘Etisalat’ brand name by the company be discontinued forthwith.
Teleology Holdings, a special purpose vehicle comprising telecom industry veterans and led by Adrian Wood, pioneer Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria, eventually won the final bid — ahead of Airtel, Globacom, Smile, Helios. The Australian, credited with building a very good business model, has remained in the Nigerian business environment since leaving MTN in November 2004.
Teleology Holdings’ successful bid for 9mobile was due largely to the quality of its proposed seven-man management team led by Wood and was approved by the NCC Technical Evaluation Committee, the 13-member bank lending syndicate as well as the acquisition finance provider, Afreximbank.
Teleology Holdings has become increasingly uncomfortable with actions taken outside of the agreed business plan, since the takeover, most important of which is how it has been blocked from concluding a management services contract with the local joint venture, Teleology Nigeria Limited. The management services contract would have enabled Teleology Holdings and its team of experts oversee the implementation of its elaborate business plans including funding proposals — but that so far been impossible.
Wood is understood to have resigned from the boards of Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services (trading as 9mobile) as well as Teleology Nigeria Limited and has already communicated his current disenchantment with the 9Mobile project to his confidants in Teleology.
“Fifteen Teleology experts have worked since June 2017 on detailed 9mobile turnaround planning, development strategies and financial restructuring,” one quoted him as saying on Monday.
“This included lining up more than US$500 million fresh direct foreign investment from international institutions. 9mobile is an exciting opportunity to build a revolutionary mobile network that could be the pride of Nigeria. Unfortunately, it appears that we will not be able to participate. We now must stand down from further work on the 9mobile project.”
Teleology Holdings Ltd will be seeking to exit its shareholding in the local joint venture Teleology Nigeria Limited, which will be required to change its name. The development may further compound the woes of the struggling 9mobile operation.
In a pre-disconnection notice advertised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)) on December 18, HIS, the infrastructure services provider which hosts a majority of 9mobile’s base stations, was granted permission to disconnect 9mobile and other debtor telecom operators within a 10-day ultimatum, ostensibly on account of 9mobile’s indebtedness. Should this disconnection take place, subscribers on 9mobile’s network would have been effectively shut out completely from the telecommunications network and would be unable to make or receive calls.
9Mobile has been at the receiving end of considerable customer attrition since its financial troubles became public in 2017.
From more than 22million customers in its heyday in October 2016, for instance, the network had just a little over 15million active subscribers in November 2018, according to NCC data, and has consistently lost customers with each passing month.