MTN is a leading telecoms provider in emerging markets, primarily in Africa. It is perhaps best known as the #2 mobile service in South Africa (behind Vodacom) with 29m subscribers (equivalent to around 31% local share). However MTN also has extensive operations in more than 20 other countries across Africa and the Middle East, including high risk nations like South Sudan and Yemen. Combined subscriber numbers were 251m by the end of 2019, including over 64m in Nigeria and almost 47m in Iran through a joint venture with local operator Irancell. It is the #1 operator in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Cameroon, #2 in Iran and the Ivory Coast. Nigeria is now its most valuable market by both revenues and profits, ahead of South Africa, but has nevertheless proved challenging. The group was fined around $4bn in 2015 by Nigerian regulators for delays in disconnecting users with unregistered SIM cards, leading to the resignation of group CEO Sifiso Dabengwa. The fine was later renegotiated to $900m; Dabenga was eventually replaced in 2017 by Rob Shuter. Yet problems in Nigeria continued to plague the group. In 2018, it was ordered by the Nigerian government to return $8bn supposedly transferred out of the country in breach of foreign exchange regulations. MTN denies any wrongdoing, and a settlement was eventually reached for just $53m. It was also fined $2bn in back-taxes. These issues were finally all resolved in 2019 when MTN issued a local offering of just over a third of the equity in its Nigerian subsidiary. The group was formed in South Africa in 1994 as M-Cell, and has gradually pieced together its continental footprint through a series of acquisitions of regional providers and local frequency licenses. Combined revenues for 2019 were almost ZAR 151.5bn ($10.5bn), of which South Africa and Nigeria each contributed around 30%. Net profit was around $1.3bn. All local subsidiaries trade under the MTN brand, but Ayoba is the group's proprietary messaging service. Other services include payments system MoMo and download service MusicTime!
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Capsule checked 4th May 2020
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