SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

MTN Nigeria Mulls N600B Investment To Accelerate 4G Network Expansion

…Commits To Good Corporate Governance Practices, CSR

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By Clifford Agugoesi

With utmost fidelity to the strategy of the government of Nigeria to keep the incidence of the coronavirus(COVID-19) pandemic southwards, by observing physical and social distancing, and wearing of face masks, the first Annual General Meeting (AGM) of MTN Nigeria Communications PLC, was held on Friday, May 15, with the telco posting strong performance and planning to invest a whopping N600billon(US$1.55billion) over the course of  the next three years, aimed at accelerating the expansion of its 4G Network, without watering down its commitment to launch commercial 5G services  this year, that would buoy the quality of experience of its teeming subscribers, everything being equal. 

Currently, Nigeria is doing about 40 per cent in broadband services penetration and MTN Nigeria subscribes to doing its very best in ramping this figure in the spirit of the National Broadband Plan(NBP 2020-2025).  The NBP 2020 – 2025 has been developed and approved for implementation and is designed to deliver data download speeds across Nigeria of a minimum 25Mbps in urban areas, and 10Mbps in rural areas, with effective coverage available to at least 90 per cent of the population by 2025 at a price not more than N390 per 1GB of data (namely 2 per cent of median income or 1 per cent of minimum wage).

Chairman of MTN Nigeria, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, stated that the nearly US$1.55billion network investment was necessary because his company was excited about the possibilities that the transition to digital presented for its business and the growth and development of Nigeria.  Dr. Ndukwe reaffirmed the commitment of MTN Nigeria to good corporate governance practices. Said he: “MTN Nigeria and its Board of Directors are committed to maintaining high governance and regulatory standards to ensure we are in line with globally benchmarked processes and procedures as well as Nigeria’s laws and regulations. We will continue to prioritise building and strengthening relationships with all policy and regulatory institutions in Nigeria and ensuring that we work collaboratively.

Chairman, MTN Nigeria Board of Directors
Dr. Ernest. Ndukwe

“We are delighted with the progress made in resolving our dispute with the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) on the adequacy of taxes and duties paid. We have discontinued the legal action against the AGF following the transfer of the matter to the relevant authorities and look forward to a final resolution. We have always fulfilled our tax obligations and in the last 19 years of operations, have paid over N2.3 trillion in Government taxes and other levies.

“During the year, we completed payment of the N330 billion negotiated settlement with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on the 2015 SIM Registration issue. The NCC also approved the transfer of additional spectrum following our purchase of Visafone Communications Limited in 2015. We are confident that we will resolve all outstanding issues, while maintaining good relationships with all authorities.”

Ndukwe also scored MTN Nigeria high on corporate social responsibility(CSR) initiatives.  “One of the ways we are creating a net positive impact is by committing up to 1 per cent of our profit after tax through the MTN Nigeria Foundation. For over 14 years, we have partnered with various communities, individuals and groups to create tangible impact around the country,” he said.

“In 2019, we implemented the Anti-Substance Abuse Programme (ASAP) and the Mother & Child campaign; both geared towards the most vulnerable of our society-Women and Children.  Our 2019 campaigns directly impacted over 250,000 individuals,” adding  since inception his company had spent over N21 billion, through the Foundation and supported 18.6 million people in over 860 projects across the 36 states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory – providing critical facilities to individuals and communities, administering medical treatments to over 145,000 people and making the dreams of over 8,000 students come true via scholarships.

The consummate telecommunications guru, who bestrode telecommunications sector watchdog, the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC) like a colossus and led the team that achieved Nigeria’s telecommunications revolution, stated that his company was committed to One Africa For All. “Our overriding mission is to connect people. This mission has seen the MTN Group work across continents and countries, forging new partnerships to create a more united world. We know the importance and power of connecting people and the positive impact it has on the society. The sparks of violence that erupt because of hate, prejudice and xenophobia should have no place in our societies. We reiterate our unequivocal condemnation of all violence against any human being on account of race, creed or gender.”

Going forward, Ndukwe said 2020 would see MTN Nigeria double down on its commitment to deliver the best customer experience, saying it  would continue to execute its strategy with greater focus on opportunities in fintech and digital. “We will continue to prioritise the expansion of our 4G network that will link more people to high-speed Internet access. While we continue to engage with relevant agencies of government regarding obtaining a Payment Service Bank licence, we are fully harnessing opportunities that the Super-Agent licence brings by working on building our network of agents and promoting employment and financial inclusion. Nurturing and earning the trust of our customers remain paramount for our Company and we will continue to direct investments to providing new products and services tailored just for their needs. It is this trust and goodwill that have helped the Company build one of the largest mobile networks in the world and Africa’s most admired brand.”

Earlier, he did a performance overview of the telecoms industry and submitted that despite the macroeconomic challenges and regulatory hurdles, MTN Nigeria delivered a strong performance in 2019.

The telco’s  service revenue increased by 12.6 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y)to NGN1.2 trillion driven by growth in voice  and data revenue.  Voice revenue increased by 8.4 per cent to N848.3 billion; Data revenue rose by 42.4 per cent to N219.9 billion;  EBITDA grew by 45.2 per cent to N629.9 billion with margin at 53.9 per cent; Profit before tax grew by 31.1 per cent to N290.1 billion; Profit after tax grew by 38.8 per cent to N202.1 billion with earnings per share at N9.9 kobo.

“These outstanding results have been made possible by our continuous investment in expanding and modernising our networks and the focus of the Board, Management and Staff of the Company on adhering to strict financial discipline and ethical business practice,” he said.

 In adherence to MTN Nigeria’s dividend policy, he said the Board recommended a final dividend of N4.97 kobo per share to be paid out of distributable net income which brought the total dividend for the year to N7.92 kobo per share.

The AGM saw the retirement from the Board of Non Executive Directors in Dr. Pascal Dozie CON; Col. Sani Bello (Rtd.); Mr. Gbenga Oyebode MFR; Mr. Babatunde Folawiyo; Mallam Ahmed Dasuki and Chief Victor Odili OON retired meritoriously from the Board in the course of the year.

The telco’s shareholders granted Ndukwe’s prayers in re-electing Messrs Andrew Alli, Michael Ajukwu, Kabiru Ahmad OON, A B Mahmood SAN, OON Dr. Omobola Johnson, and Mrs Ifueko M. Omoigui Okauru MFR , as directors of the company.

According to Ndukwe: “Beyond the financial and operational performance in 2019, we are committed to continuing to invest in the technology, systems, talent and processes required to help us deliver on our promise to our stakeholders.  During the year, we successfully hosted the first 5G trials in West Africa and also secured a super-agent licence from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) – enabling us to build the nation’s largest agent network and in so doing accelerate growth in Financial inclusion. Our listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange last year represents the first phase of our intention to expand the shareholder base of the Company. The second phase, which remains a key focus subject to conducive market conditions, is expected to involve a public offering to enable more Nigerian investors to participate in the MTN Nigeria investment opportunity. “

He affirmed that the robust performance of his company was possible through the instrumentality of its agile management team and committed staff.

Ndukwe was appointed Non-Executive Director of MTN Nigeria on June 1, 2018 and Executive Chairman on September 2, 2019.

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