Airtel says not pulling out of Africa, starts 4G roll out in Kenya

 Airtel Africa has refuted media reports stating its possible exit from Africa saying it remains committed to Africa and will continue to invest in its operations to grow sustainably in Africa.

Airtel Africa said its recent 3rd quarter results were strong with revenues for the quarter accelerating by 6.0 per cent Y-o-Y, the highest over the last 9 quarters with a reduction in customer churn to 4.9 per cent from 6.0 per cent.

The firm’s data consumption and revenues grew 91.0 per cent & 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 per cent Y-o-Y, which now stands at 24.5 per cent. Africa is now generating positive free cash and is PBT positive in constant currency.

According to Raghunath Mandava, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Airtel Africa,’ “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 launch 4 G in multiple countries.”

He added “Mergers and acquisitions continue to be the norm for any multinational organization and they affect all global organizations in equal measures as and when they happen. As a strategy, we look for opportunities to acquire or merge in opcos 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, we merged with Robi in Bangladesh to create a solid and profitable No.2 player in the market.”

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The recent results demonstrate the effectiveness of Airtel’s business strategy in Africa.  The organization sees an opportunity ahead to emerge with a broader reach and sharper execution.

In Kenya, Airtel rolling out its 4GE LTE service in the country after it saw an impressive 2.5 per cent increase in its mobile data/ internet subscriptions to 21.2 per cent, up from 18.7 per cent in the previous quarter as stated in the first quarter sector statistics by industry regulator, Communications Authority.

The initial pilot rollout of 20 sites in Nairobi is expected to be up and running by the end of this month, followed by 65 more sites in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. The full-fledged rollout will commence from April 2017 across the country.  The roll out will bring the Airtel sites in Kenya to 1,563, up from 1,211 two years ago, a 30% increase in Airtel’s sites across the country over the period.

The industry has also recorded nominal growth on estimated Internet users of 2,071 subscriptions to stand at 37.7 million, translating to Internet/data penetration level of 85.3 per cent during the quarter.

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