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MTN’s data revenue up 27% despite taxes

MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter

MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter

MTN Uganda has posted a glowing performance for the calendar year 2018, with its internet usage revenue moving up by almost 27 per cent growth while voice calls grew by just over six per cent. 

In a statement, the company group CEO Rob Shuter said: “Our growth is closely linked with the economic activity in the country. The overall growth in revenue was due to a 46.6% rise in active data users that led to data revenue growing and a rise in the active Mobile Money users…”

Voice is still the company’s biggest source despite slow growth. Fintech, which means computer programs and other technology used to support or enable banking and financial services, came second while data usage was third.

MTN Uganda’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), which essentially is a measure of a company’s operating performance without having to factor in financing decisions, accounting decisions or tax environments, shows it posted Shs 555bn in 2018 from Shs 484bn of 2017 – indicating a 14 per cent growth.

The company’s general revenue grew by 8.8 per cent to Shs 1.5tn from Shs 1.4tn last year. The growth in data and mobile money usage perhaps shows that the telecoms were hardly affected by government decision to levy additional taxes on both items mid last year. Mobile money’s one per cent tax on every transaction was reversed after a couple of months of outcry to 0.5 per cent applied only on withdrawal.

On the data usage, government statistics show a dip in the usage but from the telecom’s perspective, it appears that people could have continued using the internet but only underground via Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to avoid paying Over The Top taxes (OTT). 

The company is also seeking to renew its license which expired last year. One of the conditions that government has placed for the renewal of the license is for the telecom firm to list shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange, something that MTN has said it is comfortable with.

Shuter told the media this month that MTN Uganda would increase its local shareholding from four per cent to 20 per cent. The National Social Security Fund is expected to buy a bigger chunk of the available shares.

If MTN Uganda’s numbers are anything to go by, they will at least give government an idea of how important the company is to the economy, given its impact on taxation, employment created and general impact on the wider economy.

MTN Uganda does not specifically show how much it paid in taxes last year but it shows that it spent Shs 222.4 billion on capital investment in the country and created hundreds of jobs when it expanded its mobile money agency network.

The company says it “remains the biggest taxpayer in Uganda with a tax contribution of Shs 3.9tn” since 1998 when it opened shop in the country. It has in the last 20 years paid Shs 94bn in spectrum fees and Shs 121bn in support of the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF) at Ugandan Communications Commission.

The company’s subscribers continued to grow from 10.7 million at the end of 2017 to 11.2 million users last year, cementing its leadership position in market, accounting for 53 per cent.

amwesigwa@observer.ug

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