MTN Q1 users up 7%, helped by Nigeria, Iran

Source : Reuters

South Africa's MTN, which is currently in talks to buy Egypt's Orascom Telecom, boosted subscribers by nearly 7%  in the January-March first quarter.

Buoyed by strong growth in major markets such as Iran and Nigeria, MTN said it added 7.6 million subscribers during the quarter, bringing its total users to 123.6 million as of end-March.

Its South African unit showed little growth, however, increasing by just 2.2% to 16.4 million subscribers.

"I think what one has to accept is that the local market is saturated and that's why they are looking for opportunities," said Abri du Plessis, Chief Investment Officer at Cape Town-based Gryphon Asset Management.

If MTN's acquisition of Orascom goes through, it will now become the world's third-largest mobile phone operator. However, Algeria's government said on Wednesday it would block a key part of the USD 9 billion deal.

Should MTN acquire Orascom, it will have 217 million users, compared to world leader China Mobile's 522 million users and Vodafone's 333 million users, based on end-2009 data.

MTN, which aims to add another 20 million subscribers in 2010, said its MTN Irancell unit increased subscribers by 9% to 25.4 million and the Nigerian unit users rose by 8% to 33.3 million.

MTN shares were 0.31% up at 107.10 rand by 1049 GMT, outpacing a 0.16% weaker Johannesburg Top 40 index of blue-chip stocks.