Millicom enjoyed a strong finish to 2017, boosted by a return to growth in its Latin American mobile business as the company continues to see traction with data services in the region.
The operator, which is placing a renewed focus on advancing fixed and mobile data services in Latin America, said in its Q4 2017 earnings release it enters “2018 with a positive momentum in our largest markets”.
As the company expressed an increasing desire to focus on Latin America, it notably took a step back from Africa. It completed a deal to sell its business in Rwanda to Indian operator Airtel. This added to divestments in 2017 in Senegal and a merger of its operations in Ghana, both of which were not included in figures for this earnings period and were classified as discontinued operations.
Revenue in Q4 grew 2.1 per cent year-on-year to $1.6 billion as the company bounced back to a profit of $69 million for the period, up from a loss of $129 million in the same period of 2016. The growth was largely put down to a strong mobile performance in Paraguay and Bolivia.
CEO Mauricio Ramos (pictured) said the “transition from voice to data is more advanced”, in those two markets in particular.
“Meanwhile, the investments we are making in our Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) networks are driving steady mid to high single digit growth in home and B2B, and we see a large opportunity for Millicom in those areas,” he added.
Translating the growth into subscribers, Millicom recorded a 3.3 per cent rise in B2C mobile customers (defined as mobile services for individuals, including mobile financial services), reaching 31.9 million. This figure comprised of 15 million mobile data customers, a 15.3 per cent rise year on year, of which 6.9 million are connected to 4G, up from 3.4 million in the comparable 2016 quarter.
HFC customers grew by 11 per cent to 9 million.
Total revenue for Latam hit $1.4 billion, a 2.1 per cent year-on-year rise.
Mobile customers in Africa, excluding Senegal and Ghana, declined 1 per cent to 17.4 million, while Mobile Financial Services (MFS) customers in the region grew 13.7 per cent to just under 8 million. Revenue dropped from $161 million in Q4 2016 to $150 million in the recent quarter.
Millicom did not break out net profit figures for either Latin America or Africa.
El Salvador tower sale
In a statement issued alongside the company’s financial update, Millicom, through its Tigo El Salvador subsidiary, said it had agreed to sell communication towers in the country to a subsidiary of SBA Communications for $145 million in cash.
Under the terms of the agreement, SBA will provide Tigo El Salvador with access to the towers, under a lease agreement.
Ramos said the deal aligned with the company’s strategy of “growing our mobile data and cable revenue with a focus on Latin America, while enhancing our capital efficiency”.