MTN Nigeria lost 5 million mobile subscribers in the first quarter of 2021 as a result of new regulations on the sale and activation of SIM cards, slowing down the company’s growth momentum.
Mobile customers dropped from 76.5 million at the end of December 2020 to 71.5 million by the end of March 2021, revealed a press statement from the JSE-listed MTN Group, which owns Nigeria’s largest telecommunications operator.
Lagos-listed MTN Nigeria Communications said in a statement that there was also a slight slippage in data customers at the unit, with active subscribers down by 71 000 to 32.5 million.
"Although active data subscribers fell slightly, MTN Nigeria still recorded an 86.7% increase in data traffic, supporting by additional access to the key 800MHz band," it said.
Digital revenue grew by 101% and fintech revenue by 28.5% as customers continued to adopt digital products and services, a trend accelerated by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, MTN Nigeria's revenue increased by 17.1% to NGN 385.3 billion in the first quarter ended 31 March compared with NGN 328.2 billion in the same period in 2020. Net profit grew by 42.5% to NGN 73.7 billion from NGN 51.7 billion in 2020.
“We made good progress in the first quarter of 2021 despite the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said MTN Nigeria CEO Karl Toriola in a statement to shareholders.
MTN Nigeria said its 2021 priorities remain unchanged, with a clear focus on sustaining double-digit revenue growth, driving 4G network expansion, and positioning its fintech business for accelerated growth.
The Nigerian government has approved the activation of new SIM registrations by telecom operators, including MTN, lifting a ban in place since December 2020. The issue of SIMs and other suspended activities can restart on 19 April, the ICT ministry said.