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MTN confident over need for communication

01 декабря 2008

MTN, the leading mobile phone operator in Africa and the Middle East, is seeking to dispel fears that telecoms companies in emerging markets are no longer attractive investments.

Phuthuma Nhleko, MTN chief executive, said the mobile industry in developing countries should fare better than many other sectors during the economic downturn because people regarded communication as essential.

He said there had been an “overreaction” by investors against telecoms companies in emerging markets.

MTN has seen its shares fall 20 per cent this year, partly because of investor fears that rising inflation in developing countries will prompt people to cut their mobile spending.

Other companies have fared much worse. For example, shares in Millicom, the mobile operator in Central and South America, Africa and Asia, have fallen 66 per cent this year.

Millicom reported slowing revenue growth in the three months to September 30 because higher food prices meant some of its customers in Central America and Asia were spending less on telecoms.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Nhleko said mobile spending by MTN’s customers remained “resilient” in many markets.

He highlighted how, using the industry performance measure of average revenue per user, customer spending had remained stable in 10 of its 21 markets between June and September, even though inflation was rising.

Although he did not rule out some reduced customer spending next year, Mr Nhleko said: “I suspect the mobile industry, simply because this has become an almost essential service, will most probably not be as hard hit as other sectors.”

He highlighted the potential for growth in MTN’s markets, given that, on average, only 30 per cent of people own mobile phones.

In the next two to three years, he said mobile ownership could increase to 50 per cent.

MTN is grappling with rising competition in its African markets, where European mobile operators such as Vodafone and France Telecom are expanding. But Mr Nhleko said MTN was well placed to cope with competition.

He highlighted how MTN was the number one or two mobile operator in most of its markets and had invested in networks that could provide good customer service.

Mr Nhleko predicted mergers between operators because some would struggle to survive in crowded markets. Ghana has six operators using GSM mobile technology while Uganda has five.

During the summer, MTN held talks about a possible merger with Reliance Communications, India’s second-largest mobile operator.

The talks broke down, as did earlier discussions with Bharti Airtel, India’s largest mobile operator.

Mr Nhleko said MTN was open-minded about exploring further deals, although he stressed nothing was under consideration.

Some analysts and bankers are sceptical that South Africa’s government would tolerate MTN falling under foreign ownership, given it is one of the country’s biggest post- apartheid success stories.

However, Mr Nhleko pointed to how Vodafone of the UK agreed a £1.4bn ($2.14bn) transactionearlier in November to secure control of Vodacom, South Africa’s largest mobile operator.


Источник: Financial Times

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