Telling empowering stories, South Africans want to hear

Monday, 31 July 2023 21:07

MTN flags slight interim profit growth despite hefty Nigerian foreign exchange hit.

By Karl Gernetzky.

MTN, SA's second biggest mobile operator, said on Monday earnings could rise as much as a tenth in its half-year to end June, but it is feeling the pressure of hyperinflation in key markets, as well as currency devaluations.

Headline earnings per share are expected to be in the range of 506c to 557c, from 506c previously, the group said in a brief update, weighed down mostly by 169c in foreign exchange losses, more than double the prior comparative period.

MTN, valued at almost R261 billion on the JSE, had generated more than R10 billion in headline earnings in its prior half-year, a profit measure that excludes certain items to provide a gauge of the underlying performance of a business.

The company had seen significant currency volatility during the period, including rand depreciation against the dollar and the liberalisation of forex rates in Nigeria. In mid-June, Nigeria unified its multiple exchange rates, while it also scrapping a popular, but expensive, petrol subsidy, moves that led to a sharp fall in the value in the Naira, but which have been welcomed by many investors.

MTN Nigeria, meanwhile, reported on Monday that it had a challenging first half, with energy, food, and general inflation at elevated levels. Inflation in Nigeria accelerated for a sixth-consecutive month in June, reaching 22.8%.

Nigeria is MTN's most profitable market, accounting for almost 46% of the group's core profit in 2022.

Mobile subscribers increased by 4% to 77.1 million, MTN Nigeria said, and while service revenue increased almost 22% to N1.2 trillion (about R26.4 billion), profit fell about 29% to about R2.8 billion. 

Higher taxes played some role, but the company said that excluding the foreign exchange losses, profit would have risen 13.4%. MTN Nigeria had accounted for 128c of MTNs 169c in foreign exchange losses, with 95c incurred in June alone.

In late morning trade on Monday MTN's shares were down 1%, though they are still up more than 6% for the year-to-date. They have fallen just over 2% on a one-year basis.