Bharti Airtel’s African arm on Friday posted a net profit of $132.2 million, down 12.2 per cent from the corresponding period last year, at a time when the company is readying 4G spectrum to roll out wireless home broadband services in select nations.
This was Airtel Africa’s first results announcement after the $750-million initial public offering in June. It had reported net profit of $150.6 million in June 2018.
Revenue increased to $795.9 million, up 6.9 per cent, with growth of 10.2 per cent in constant currency terms. This was driven by double-digit growth in Nigeria and East Africa, and was partially offset by a decline in revenue in the rest of Africa, the company said in a statement.
“Voice revenue, our largest product, was up 3 per cent driven largely by the 9 per cent growth in our customer base, now touching 100 million customers. Data revenue, the highest contributor to growth, rose 36 per cent as an increasing number of customers relied on our high-quality and high-speed LTE network. This led to 79 per cent growth in data usage. Mobile Money revenue, our fastest-growing business, increased by 42 per cent as we expanded our distribution reach,” said Raghunath Mandava, CEO of Airtel Africa.
The company's total customer base at the end of reported quarter reached 99.7 million.
The operator continues to invest in 4G network, having added nearly 1,500 sites; more than half its sites are now 4G. It continues to prepare for the launch of the Mobile Money business in Nigeria, securing approval of the brand name — an important step while awaiting approval for the payments service bank license, Mandava added.
Bharti Airtel Africa’s net debt stands at $4.8 billion, including cash equivalent of $800 million, finance lease obligations of $1.2 billion, and external loans of $2.8 billion, he said.
“We are building a humongous 4G network, thanks to a single-brand network and capacities we have built by re-farming spectrum on 4G,” said Jaideep Paul, chief finance officer of Airtel Africa, in a post-earnings concall.
At present, Airtel is the second-largest operator in Africa, with a customer base of about 94 million in 14 countries. These include Nigeria, Chad, Gabon, Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Rwanda, among others.