South Africa based MTN Group has published an update of its global subscriber based and recorded 98.2 million customers at 31 March 2009. This is an 8% increase for the quarter from 90.65 million subscribers recorded at the end of last year. The company noted that while strong subscriber growth continues to be a feature in almost all countries in which it operates in, currency volatility has generally had a more negative impact on ARPU reported in US$. Changes to spending patterns have been varied as economies respond to the global economic situation.
South and East Africa (SEA) region contributed 26% (December 2008: 27%) of the Group's total subscribers while West and Central Africa (WECA) and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) contributed 45% (December 2008: 44%) and 29% (December 2008: 29%), respectively.
The SEA region increased its subscriber base by 4% for the quarter. The South African operation contributes 69% to the region's subscribers, increasing 2% to 17.43 million for the quarter ended 31 March 2009. The modest increase in subscribers was due to the mix of seasonal trends, weakening economic conditions and aggressive competition. Uganda increased its subscriber base by 13% due to the continued success of MTN Zone.
The WECA region increased its subscriber base by 10% for the quarter. The strong growth in the region was primarily due to growth in Nigeria which contributes 59% to the region's subscribers and recorded a 12% increase in its subscriber base to 25.9 million. This was mainly due to continued improvements in network quality and capacity with 173 BTS's added in the quarter. Ghana increased its subscriber base by 5% despite fierce competition. Both Cameroon and Cote d'Ivoire increased their subscriber bases by 7% to 3.82 million and 3.81 million respectively.
The MENA region recorded a 9% increase in subscribers for the quarter. This was due to continued growth from the Iran operation, which contributes 63% to the region's subscribers and increased its subscribers by 14% to 18,252,000. The disappointing slowdown of subscriber acquisitions in Sudan and Syria is mainly attributed to the economic downturn in the respective countries. Sudan increased its subscriber base to 2.66 million while Syria saw its base drop by 3% to 3.43 million subscribers.
MTN South Africa's blended ARPU decreased by 6%. This is as a result of increased penetration into lower market segments, seasonal trends and a slowdown in consumer spending. Iran's ARPU remain relatively stable notwithstanding seasonal trends and increased penetration. The decline of many local currencies against the US$ has negatively affected ARPU trends. Larger operations including Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Syria and Sudan experienced significantly more resilience in local currency ARPU than reflected in the reported US$ number.