MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter (pictured) said uptake of digital and data services drove growth in the first half of 2017, though foreign exchange movements and macro-economic conditions continued to hamper its performance.

The number of customers across the group taking data services increased 8.3 per cent year on year to account for 28 million of its 231.8 million customers by the end of June. Group subscriber numbers declined from 232.6 million at the same time in 2016.

Adjusted figures to remove sharp currency movements in several of its markets put revenue up 6.7 per cent year on year to ZAR64.3 billion ($4.8 billion).

In a statement, the company said the decline in connections was a result of “the Group’s initiative to modernise subscriber definitions” to reflect the “changing mix of revenue streams.”

During the first half of the year, the company made a post-tax profit of ZAR4.9 billion compared with a loss of ZAR6.3 billion in the same period in 2016.

Its figures for H1 2016 were heavily impacted by paying the first installment of a $1.67 billion fine imposed by Nigeria’s communications regulator, which was significantly larger than the H1 2017 installment.

On a country-by-country basis, the company pointed to strong results in Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Ghana in the opening six months of 2017.

However, MTN added it had also been impacted by hyperinflation in Sudan and Syria along with operational issues in Cameroon, where the data network was periodically unavailable in some areas during the first half of the year.

In a statement to investors Shuter said: “We are seeing pleasing progress in our key growth drivers of data and digital services against headwinds of challenging macro-economic conditions and foreign exchange currency pressures.”

He added its focus for H2 was to continue its ongoing review of operations and complete its network investment programme across its markets.