MTN Group shares soared by 18.1% on Thursday after Africa’s biggest wireless carrier started a R15-billion disposal plan to shore up the balance sheet.
The company agreed to sell its 53% stake in Botswana’s Mascom to Econet Wireless Zimbabwe for US$300-million (about R4.3-billion), the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement on Thursday.
Other businesses now on the market include e-commerce services, which include Nigerian online retailer Jumia Technologies and Travelstart.co.za. MTN is also looking to sell its interest in IHS Towers, the company said.
The news comes a year after CEO Rob Shuter announced a review of MTN’s then-22 markets across the Middle East and Africa to evaluate ways of simplifying the business and focus on the highest-earning countries.
South Africa, Nigeria, Iran, Ghana and Uganda account for more than 84% of earnings, while some of the others, such as South Sudan and Syria, have been ravaged by conflict. MTN sold its Cyprus unit for €260-million last year.
“We are simplifying the group, we are reducing risk, and improving returns,” Shuter said in a phone interview. “That will generate some returns that will be helpful for our gearing and other priorities.”
MTN reported the strategy alongside 2018 adjusted earnings per share, excluding some items, of R3.37. That compared with a company guidance of R3.28 to R3.46. The firm also raised its medium-term service revenue guidance to double-digit percentage figures from upper single digits. Dividend growth will be in the 10-20% range, though for 2019 the payout will probably be at the lower end.
The full-year year dividend was R5/share, while subscriber numbers increased to 233 million across 21 countries. — (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP