Airtel Africa has released its financial results for the quarter ended (QE) March 2023. Revenue in constant currency grew by 17.6 per cent, with revenues growing by 11.5 per cent to $5.255 billion in reported currency. While each segment’s reported currency revenue growth was impacted by currency devaluation, they all delivered double-digit constant currency revenue growth. Across the group mobile service revenue grew by 16.2 per cent in constant currency, driven by voice revenue growth of 11.8 per cent and data revenue growth of 23.8 per cent. Mobile money revenue grew by 29.6 per cent in constant currency.

Underlying earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increased by 17.3 per cent in constant currency, and 11.4 per cent in reported currency to $2.575 billion, with an underlying EBITDA margin of 49 per cent, reflecting the resilience of our operating model despite inflationary cost pressures. Profit after tax was $750 million, a decrease of only $5 million, after including a higher foreign exchange and derivative losses of $245 million. Basic EPS at 17.7 cents was up by 5.2 per cent due to higher operating profits and exceptional items gain on deferred tax credit recognition in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tanzania partially offset by higher foreign exchange and derivative losses. EPS before exceptional items was 13.6 cents, a reduction of 15 per cent, largely due to higher foreign exchange and derivative losses of $245 million. EPS before exceptional items and excluding foreign exchange and derivative losses was 20.6 cents, up by 13.4 per cent.

Meanwhile, capex increased by 14 per cent to $748 million, in line with our guidance, as the company continues to invest for future growth. Additionally, the telco acquired spectrum in Nigeria, the DRC, Tanzania, Zambia and Kenya during the year. In July 2022, the group prepaid $450 million of outstanding external debt at HoldCo. The remaining debt at HoldCo is now $550 million, falling due in May 2024. Cash at the holding companies was $398 million. Leverage was at 1.4x in March 2023, broadly stable despite $500 million of spectrum investment during the year. The board has recommended a final dividend of 3.27 cents per share, making the total dividend for FY 2023 5.45 cents per share, an increase of 9 per cent.

Total customer base grew by 9 per cent to 140 million, as the penetration of mobile data and mobile money services continued to rise, driving a 16.9 per cent increase in data customers to 54.6 million and a 20.4 per cent increase in mobile money customers to 31.5 million. Constant currency average revenue per user (ARPU) growth of 7.4 per cent was largely driven by increased usage across voice, data and mobile money. Mobile money transaction value increased by 41.3 per cent, with Q4 2023 annualised transaction value exceeding $102 billion in constant currency.

Further, the group’s inaugural sustainability report was published in October 2022, reflecting commitment to sustainability and detailing progress against the long-term goals as outlined in the sustainability strategy. UNICEF partnership launched across six of its markets providing educational resources, free of charge, to more than 250,000 children this year on its way to reaching 1 million children by 2027. The group’s ambition to achieve net zero by 2050 has progressed. The company published its scope 1, 2 and 3 baseline GHG footprint in October 2022 and in May 2023 announced its detailed plans to achieve over 60 per cent reduction in scope 1 and 2 emissions intensity by 2032.

Commenting on the results, Olusegun Ogunsanya, chief executive officer, Airtel Africa, said, “Over the last year, the operating environment has been challenging in many ways, yet our strategic focus on providing reliable, affordable and accessible services across our markets has enabled us to sustain our top-line growth momentum. The resilience of our underlying EBITDA margins has shown the effectiveness of our operating model, despite significant inflationary and foreign exchange pressures. Strong customer and ARPU growth over the year demonstrates that demand for our services remains very strong and gives us the confidence to continue investing to support our future growth potential. Over the year, we invested $500 million on additional spectrum, including 5G, across many of our OpCos which, combined with our capex, will underpin our growth ambitions. Despite this investment, and driven by a disciplined capital allocation policy, our balance sheet remains strong and has been further de-risked over the last year by the prepayment of $450 million HoldCo debt in July last year. Currencies across our footprint have been under pressure, and the impact from the revaluation of our foreign currency denominated liabilities provided some headwinds in the last financial year. While currency devaluation is not in our control, we have plans to continue to mitigate its impact by growing our revenues at a faster pace than devaluation, with double-digit revenue growth in reported currency delivered this year and as we continue to reduce our foreign currency exposure across our balance sheet. Our six-pillar strategy continues to provide the basis for stakeholder value creation by facilitating continued expansion of our services to enhance both digital and financial inclusion across Africa. This strategy will continue and will be underpinned by our sustainability strategy as articulated in our sustainability report published in October 2022. I am pleased with this year’s performance and wish to thank all our customers, business partners, governments and regulators for their support and our employees for their consistent contribution to the business’ success. The macro-economic outlook remains volatile, but we are well positioned to deliver against the growth opportunities these markets offer, with a continued focus on margin resilience.”