The Group also called for vaccine equity amid a deepening divide between countries that have access to vaccines for their people and those that do not.
“Notwithstanding the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, MTN delivered a solid H1, exceeding most of the Group’s medium-term targets through sustained commercial momentum as we executed on ourAmbition 2025strategy,” said MTN Group President and Chief Executive Officer Ralph Mupita.
The telco said it continued to prioritise the health of its people, as well as sustain initiatives to support Africa’s recovery from the pandemic’s devastating impacts on lives and livelihoods.
By 12 July 2021, MTN said it had 2,452 COVID-19 infections across its operations and mourned the loss of 18 employees.
By that date, just over 8% of its staff had been vaccinated with at least one dose.
“We add our voice to the calls by the World Health Organisation and the Africa CDC for COVID-19 vaccine equity for developing markets. The push for herd immunity across the world and a return to broad-based socio-economic global growth will not be possible while developing markets battle to access vaccines,”said Mupita. “Public-private partnerships focused on a sustainable future for our planet will be critical to successfully navigate this pandemic.”
With the launch of the #OneMorePush campaign in July, MTN Group said it extended its partnership with the Africa CDC.
This campaign encourages people to not give up in the fight against COVID-19 and to continue to wear their masks, wash their hands and practise social distancing, at a time when vaccination levels in its markets still lag those in developed countries.
At the end of June 2021, across the 21 markets, MTN Group had more than 277 million voice subscribers; 117million active data customers; almost 49million active Mobile Money users; and eight million users of its instant messaging platform ayoba.
In constant currency terms, service revenue increased by 20% in H1 to almost R82billion and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) before once-off items increased by 24% to nearly R39billion. The Group’s EBITDA margin expanded by 1.6 percentage points to 44.9%.
Reported headline earnings per share (HEPS) declined by 10%, impacted by non-operational and once-off items, which included accounting adjustments related to our Middle East portfolio as well as material COVID-19 donations.
Excluding these, adjusted HEPS increased by 31.5%. This supported the further expansion of adjusted return on equity, which was up by more than four percentage points to 18.3%. In line with previous guidance, no interim dividend was declared.
MTN Group said it made good progress in reducing its holding company debt, which declined to R36.7billion from R43.3 billion, and the holdco leverage reduced to 1.4x in the half.
This was boosted by cash inflows received from the company’s operating companies of R9.3billion, which included R4.0 billion from Nigeria, as well as R1.8billion in proceeds from the sale of its stake in Belgacom International Carrier Services.
MTN advanced its work to create shared value, driven by its belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life.
MTN added approximately R50billion of economic value to sustain societies in its markets; increased the number of people covered by broadband by more than 25 million; and reduced the average effective data rate per megabyte across its markets by more than 17%. We also paid cash taxes of R7.2billion in support of the nation states in which the company operates, up 47% year-on-year.
“We made progress in efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2040, including working closely with our suppliers to reduce our scope 3 emissions. To accelerate diversity and inclusion, we set a target of 50% women representation of executives and boards across our operating companies”.
“Our April 2021 bid for a new telecom licence in Ethiopia was unsuccessful. Our bid took into account the licence conditions as well as related uncertainties. We had also adopted a partnership approach to ensure that funding and risk was diversified. While disappointing, we are comfortable that our approach was guided by disciplined strategic and capital allocation frameworks. The Group has decided not to participate in the new liberalisation processes underway in Ethiopia, and we thank the Ethiopian government for the opportunity to have been part of the previous process. We also thank the partners we had in our unsuccessful licence bid”.
“We announced our decision to abandon the MTN operation in Syria given regulatory actions and demands that make operating in that country untenable. We reserve our rights to seek redress through international legal processes given the actions of the Syrian authorities that have left us with no other choice than to exit. MTN Syria represented less than 1% of MTN Group EBITDA at the end of 2020. In line with our focus on Africa, we continue to explore options to exit Yemen and Afghanistan in an orderly manner”.