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Airtel Africa’s revenue drops 5.3% QoQ as voice revenue continues to decline

Airtel Africa’s data subscriber base has continued to grow across its 14 markets on the continent. The company recently released its financial report for the period between April 2020 and June 2020.

During that quarter, Airtel’s data subscribers grew by 4.5%, rising from 35.4 million in March 2020 to 37 million in June 2020. The company’s total number of subscribers increased marginally, as it added around 900,000 new users at the end of the quarter.

However, the pandemic and COVID-19 control measures made some impacts on the company’s finances during the last quarter.

In its previous financial report published on May 13, Airtel had identified early risks posed by the pandemic. “Our performance during the month of April has been resilient despite customers’ behaviour being impacted by lower disposable income and restrictions on movements,” the company wrote.

While noting that the pandemic posed challenges to its voice revenue, Airtel was optimistic about the future. As people stayed at home and banks closed, the company expected new growth in data services and mobile money. “Increase in data and mobile money revenue growth more than offset revenue decline in voice,” Airtel told investors in May.

However, results are in for that challenging quarter, and growth did not happen as expected.

On the one hand, data services did witness growth. Airtel internet users consumed 279.5 billion megabytes worth of data between April and June, higher than the 219 billion megabytes consumed in the previous quarter. To handle the growth in data services, the company expanded its network and added 562 new tower infrastructure across its 14 African markets.

Airtel recorded 4.5% growth in data subscribers, generating revenue of $265 million (reported currency) at the end of June, up from $253 million in March. Data revenue grew 35.7% from last year and now contributes 31.1% of Airtel’s total revenue.

However, this not was enough to fully offset the decline in voice revenue, causing Airtel’s total earnings to fall by 5.3% QoQ.

Voice services accounted for 53.3% of Airtel’s total revenue during the last quarter, down from 58.9% in June 2019, an interesting diversification. Voice revenue stood at $456 million at the end of the quarter, down from $510 million in March. That’s a 10% drop quarter on quarter.

Voice services witnessed the biggest decline in Nigeria, Airtel’s largest market. In the West African country, voice revenue dropped 10.8% and users spent less time making traditional voice calls. ASimilar revenue decline was recorded in East Africa and Francophone Africa, but unlike Nigeria, voice usage continued to grow in these regions.

However, while Airtel recorded quarterly declines in both voice revenue and total revenue,  figures are up 2.2% and 7% respectively from a year ago.

Airtel Africa’s pivot to data services

Between April and June 2020, Airtel continued to double down on its data services, mobile money operations and other non-voice services. Together, these non-voice businesses contributed 46.7% of Airtel’s total revenue.

The company has been expanding its 4G network across the continent. In Nigeria, Airtel only introduced its 4G broadband in 2018 but it has quickly expanded the broadband since 2019. In its latest quarterly report, the telco said 70% of its total network sites in the country have been upgraded to 4G. The faster broadband now contributes 58% of total data usage in the country.

Similarly, Airtel has expanded its 4G coverage to 68% of sites in its East African market and 58% in Francophone Africa market.

Airtel is also growing its mobile money business; the number of users reached 18.5 million in June 2020, up from 18.3 million in March. Transaction value also grew by 12.5% to $9 billion during the last quarter. Yet, Airtel’s mobile money revenue remained stagnant.

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