MTN announces $279 million annual profit

MTN Group, Africa’s biggest mobile phone operator, returned to annual profit in 2017 in the absence of one-off charges related to a $1.1 billion Nigerian fine.

MTN LOGOHeadline earnings totalled 3.3 billion rand ($278.82 million), or 182 cents per share, in the year ended December, compared with a loss of 1.4 billion rand, or 77 cents per share, a year earlier, South Africa-based MTN said on Thursday.

Headline EPS is the main profit measure in South Africa and strips out certain one-off items.

Group service revenue rose 7.2 percent to 124 billion rand, due to strong performance in Nigeria, the company’s most lucrative but problematic market. MTN said it would pay a total of 700 cents in dividend payouts for the year, unchanged from the previous year.

Founded with the help of Pretoria at the end of white rule in 1994, MTN is seen as one of post-apartheid South Africa’s biggest commercial successes, but clashes with regulators in recent years have raised questions about its governance and hobbled its growth.

In November, the Nigerian Senate approved a report largely exonerating MTN of illegally repatriating $14 billion, an investigation that came in 2016 after the company agreed to pay $1.1 billion fine to settle a long-running dispute with the west African country over unregistered SIM cards.

The company, which vies with Vodacom at home, appointed Rob Shuter as chief executive a year ago as part of efforts to step up the hunt for returns in everything from financial services to music and video games.

“We are confident that the foundation is in place for MTN to deliver strong growth over the medium term,” said Shuter, a former Vodafone European head with a background in banking.