MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter (pictured) hailed growth in the company’s domestic South Africa operation over the first six months of 2019, noting it overcame several headwinds including a weak economy and regulatory changes covering subscriber contracts.

Specifically, the executive pointed to amendments ordered by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) which reduced fees associated with out-of-bundle billing, along with various other changes covering subscriber access to notifications and the way data is handled, as factors impacting MTN’s performance during the period.

“Despite these headwinds, we progressed our plans to build a digital operator”, Shuter said, pointing to annual growth in South African service revenue and EBITDA. These increases “supported solid growth in operational earnings”, he added.

At group level “commercial momentum continued, with growth in our subscriber base of 7.7 million, in our active data users of 3.5 million, and in our Mobile Money users of 2.4 million”, Shuter said. The company also “delivered on several strategic projects” including the listing of MTN Nigeria and a New York Stock Exchange float of its Jumia e-commerce business.

Other highlights included the launch of messaging platform Ayoba and the receipt of a super-agent licence in Nigeria, which Shuter said enabled MTN to expand its fintech business.

“We remain focused on building our digital operator strategy, focusing on being a scale player in both our evolving telco services as well as digital and fintech, and delivering on our medium-term targets.”

Revenue was up in almost all MTN’s markets except Ivory Coast and some of its MENA operations.

In its earnings document, the operator noted a 9.7 per cent year-on-year rise in service revenue, citing Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and South Africa as the main drivers.

The operator registered increases in voice, data, fintech, enterprise and wholesale revenue, though digital sales decreased significantly, by 42.5 per cent.

Group level revenue grew from ZAR62.7 billion ($4.2 billion) in H1 2018 to ZAR72.5 billion, with an associated rise in net profit from ZAR4.9 billion to ZAR5.29 billion.