Econet doubles average revenue per user

Econet, Zimbabwe's largest mobile cellular provider, more than doubled its average revenue per user between June and December last year. The ARPU rose from US$5.44 in June to US$11.13 in December.

Though users in Zimbabwe are complaining about high tariffs which shot up from 2 US cents to 12 US cents, the tariffs are way below the international and regional averages. Tariffs for Mascom in Botswana, for example, are 30.6 US cents.

The central bank has recommended that the rates be raised to between 20 and 25 US cents.

In its report for the half-year ending December, Econet said its revenue shot up from $7.2 billion to nearly $62 billion.

Operating profit increased from $2.4 billion to $30.8 billion. Net profit rocketed from $1.2 billion to $23.6 billion.

The company's results could have been boosted by revenue from Mascom Botswana whose results are now incorporated in the holding company's results following the acquisition of the 14 percent stake in Mascom that was owned by TS Masiyiwa Holdings.

TS Masiyiwa Holding sold its stake to Econet to enable the group's chief executive Strive Masiyiwa to increase his shareholding in Econet from 26 percent to 60 percent.

Mascom has 310 160 subscribers and controls 70 percent of the Botswana market. It generated revenue of P190 million and profit before tax of P50 million.

Botswana, which has a population of about 2 million, has the largest mobile phone penetration in the Southern African region of 22 percent.

Econet has only 153 167 subscribers in Zimbabwe. It had 139 795 subscribers in December 2002.

The number of subscribers is, however, being hampered by lack of capacity and the ability of cellular phone providers to supply lines.

Econet, whose share price had been plummeting since Masiyiwa took over the majority shareholding, seems to have had a good start this year.

It is now one of the best performers with its price having appreciated by more than 90 cent in the first two months. This was despite a report that the company was being investigated for externalising foreign currency and might have its licence withdrawn.

The company said the report was baseless.

Econet has also entered into a joint venture with Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed Altech in a move that could see the establishment of a US$140 million telecommunications company.

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