The African arm of Bharti Airtel, Airtel Africa added 13.8 million new subscribers to the network at the end of last year, increasing from 84.1 million in 2017 to 97.9 million in 2018.
This is even as the Indian telecommunications firm, which operates in 14 countries across the region, has secured more external funding as it prepares for an Initial Public Offering (IPO).
The regional unit of the firm, according to Connecting Africa, struck an agreement for the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar, to invest $200 million by acquiring new shares.
Just last October, six investors have agreed to invest a total of $1.25 billion in Airtel Africa.
Airtel has now appointed a set of eight banks to handle the IPO process, whereby Airtel Africa will make its shares available on an as yet unspecified international public stock exchange.
The investment comes as Airtel Africa reports a 16.4 per cent increase in its customer base during 2018. Africa revenues increased by 11.2 per cent to $853 million from $767 million in the final three months of 2017. Its EBITDA was $317 million, up from $272 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Its EBITDA margin improved by 1.7 percentage points to 37.2 per cent.
For the nine months from March to December 2018, Airtel Africa generated revenues of $2.47 billion, up 12 per cent from $2.2 billion in the corresponding period of 2017.
Airtel has presence in countries including Nigeria, Chad, Congo B, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon,Madagascar, Niger, Kenya, Malawi, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Rwanda.
The operator offers 3G services and Airtel Money services in all of those markets and 4G services in 11 African countries.
In Nigeria, Airtel currently controls 26 per cent of the market and services 44 million customers.
The number of mobile data customers across all Airtel Africa markets reached 29.3 million, up by 5.9 million in the final quarter of last year alone. “Data customers now represent 29.9 per cent of the total customer base, as compared to 27.7 per cent in the corresponding quarter last year,” the operator reported. Data usage per customer during the final three months of 2018 was 1.25 GigaBytes, compared with 997 MegaBytes in the corresponding quarter a year earlier, an increase of 25.1 per cent.
Airtel Money ended 2018 with 13.8 million users, up 32.1 per cent year-on-year, while the total number of transactions during the final three months of 2018 increased by 76.9 per cent to 835 million as compared to 472 million a year earlier.
The total value of transactions on the Airtel money platform grew by 29.1 per cent to $6.9 billion from $5.36 billion a year earlier.
Revenues from Airtel Money grew by 23 per cent quarter-on-quarter to $67.7 million.
Airtel Africa now has 20,582 network towers (of which 15,734 are mobile broadband-enabled), up from 19,054 at the end of 2017. The company had 29,650 mobile broadband base stations at the end of 2018, compared with 16,863 at the end of 2017.
Capex during the final three months of 2018 hit $170 million, “largely on account of investment in data capacities and network modernization,” the operator noted.