MTN recovers from $1.1Bn Nigeria fine to post $279Mn profit

Africa’s biggest mobile phone operator, MTN Group returned to annual profit in 2017 and recovered from a $1.1 billion fine paid to the Nigerian government that wiped a third of its earnings.

According to MTN, in the year ended December 2017, headline earnings which are based solely on operational and capital investment activities totaled 3.3 billion rand ($278.82 million), or 182 cents per share. This is a huge recovery when compared with the loss of 1.4 billion rands recorded last year.

Due to strong performance in Nigeria, the company’s most lucrative but problematic market, the Group service revenue rose 7.2 percent to 124 billion rand. MTN said it would pay a total of 700 cents in dividend payouts for the year, unchanged from the previous year.  The period of the case with the Nigerian government has been described as “the most challenging year in the company’s 24-year history.

In fulfillment of its record-fine-settlement deal with the Nigerian Communications Commission, the company plans to sell $500 million worth of shares of its Nigerian unit to the public by July. MTN is the leading telecoms operator in Nigeria and has an estimated 51.3 million subscribers. The Nigerian unit is crucial to the Group and contributes a third of its global earnings. In 2015, MTN Group’s revenue was over $15 billion.

The Johannesburg listed group which was founded with the help of Pretoria at the end of white rule in 1994 is seen as one of post-apartheid South Africa’s biggest commercial successes.