Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s largest mobile-phone company, raised its full-year subscriber forecast as growth in the Middle East and its domestic market propelled an increase in third-quarter customer numbers.
MTN will probably add 21.8 million subscribers this year, compared with a forecast in August of 20.1 million new customers, the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement today. The number of subscribers at the end of September totaled 158.6 million versus 152.3 million on June 30 and 141.6 million customers at the end of last year.
The company, which operates in 22 markets across Africa and the Middle East, said it has made “steady progress” in meeting targets, particularly centralizing procurement and developing a strategy for data operations as its markets mature.
Subscriber numbers in South Africa, MTN’s third-biggest market, increased 5.9 percent from three months earlier to 20.9 million users on Sept. 30, the phone operator said.
MTN rose as much as 2.7 percent to 136.60 rand and was up 2.1 percent as of 2:18 p.m. in Johannesburg. The stock has gained 1.1 percent this year.
African countries where MTN posted the highest growth included Sudan with a 17 percent increase, Cameroon with a 12 percent increase, Liberia with 10 percent and Zambia with 9.7 percent. Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries’ biggest gains included 10 percent in Yemen, 6.2 percent in Cyprus and 6 percent in Syria.
Group growth has been held back by some countries’ requirements that new customers register proof of identity when buying services, MTN said.
MTN’s subscriber numbers rose 1.4 percent to 41.1 million in Nigeria, the company’s biggest market, and 3.5 percent to 33.3 million in Iran, its second biggest. MTN Nigeria is the largest phone company in Africa’s most populous country, with a 48 percent share of the market, according to the National Communications Commission. Globacom Ltd. ranks second with 19 million and India’s Bharti Airtel Ltd. is third with 16 million.
So-called blended average revenue per user, which includes both pre- and post-paid customers, remained stable in Nigeria and South Africa while falling 1 percent in Ghana, MTN said.
--Editors: Tom Lavell, Robert Valpuesta
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