Airtel speaks out on rumors of exiting Africa

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Airtel has refuted claims that it has plans to exit 14 African countries within a year. The claims that have been going around social media and African blogs. In a statement from the telecommunications company, the organization has reaffirmed that it remains committed to Africa and will continue to invest in its operations to grow sustainably in Africa.

If anything to go with, the company has referred to the recent 3rd quarter results that still remain the highest over the last 9 quarters. The underlying Africa revenues for the quarter accelerated by 6.0 percent Year-on-Year. The organization’s efforts to improve the quality of customer acquisitions have resulted in a reduction in customer churn to 4.9 per cent from 6.0 per cent.

Data consumption and revenues have grown by 91.0 percent & 24.0 per cent Y-o-Y respectively, led by stronger data networks. The strong focus on cost management has led to a significant underlying EBITDA margin expansion of 4.5 percent Year-on-Year, which now stands at 24.5 percent. Africa is now generating positive free cash and is PBT positive in constant currency.

“All the steps taken recently with regard to human resources and infrastructure have been geared towards readying the organization to grow efficiently and sustainably in the medium to long term. The company remains committed to competing in various markets and providing more choice to customers through further investments to ensure consistent delivery of quality and value for money services to our customers. We are also accelerating our investments in new data networks and to modernize our existing networks. We are committed to launching 4 G in multiple countries.” Said Raghunath Mandava, MD and CEO, Airtel Africa.

Airtel says mergers and acquisitions should not be looked at as setbacks but instead a strategy for more opportunities to acquire or merge in “operating companies” that are operating in a fragmented market structure with too many players in a small market. Last year, Airtel and Orange reached a mutually beneficial agreement on the assets in Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso.

Similarly, Airtel also acquired assets in Uganda, CongoB and Kenya in recent times. The agreements brought together the strengths of Airtel, Warid and Essar. This has offered benefits to customers in the form of a superior and wider network, affordable voice/data services and better customer care. Away from Africa, recently, Airtel merged with Robi in Bangladesh to create a solid and profitable No.2 player in the market.

The telco still remains adamant on opportunities ahead to emerge with a broader reach and sharper execution.

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Melissa Daniels
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TELECOMMUNICATION