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Safaricom records revenue increase but lower ARPUs

Safaricom today held its third annual general meeting since the firm's listing at the stock exchange. Held at the Bomas cultural arts centre, the meeting attracted hundreds of shareholders, though the number was about half of the 2010 AGM attendance.

Speaking at the event, Board chairman Nicholas Ng'ang'a highlighted the firms good performance in a difficult operation environment brought about by price wars, increased fuel prices and weak Kenyan currency.

Safaricom saw a 12.9% increase in revenues this year. The firm's revenue increased from KES 83.96 billion in 2010 to KES 94.83 billion in 2011. Subscribers increased from 15.79 million to 17.18 million while MPESA users increased from 9.48 million to 13.8 million contributing to an MPESA revenue growth from KES 7.56 million to KES 11.78 million. Mobile and fixed data revenue increased from KES 2.98 billion to KES 5.37 billion over the year while data subscribers increased from 2.64 million to 4.90 million. Voice accounts for 67% of the firm's revenue.

Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) for MPESA increased by KES 79 to KES 81, SMS from KES 30 to KES 37. However, data ARPU decreased from KES 126 to KES 101, voice from KES 356 to KES 300 and general ARPU decreased from KES 459 to KES 437. The firm also saw an increase in its capital investments in 2G, 3G, WIMAX and network operations from the previous year.

Mobile Number Portability (MNP) has however not had the impact that Safaricom expected. "MNP has not had the effect that people thought it would have. We have some of our customers porting out, new customers porting in and some of our customers porting out then porting in again," says Ng'ang'a. In addition, the firm's dividends remain at KES 8 billion earning in a KES 0.2 per share.

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore highlighted the launch of Safaricom 2.0 which sees restructuring of the firm's organisation structure. "Safaricom 2.0 is about placing the customer at the heart of what we do and ensuring we make a difference to the ecosystem," says Collymore. The firm is also re-engineering its cost structure to increase its cost efficiency.

In addition to persistent concerns from shareholders on lack of goodie packs at the AGM, the shareholders were also concerned about the share price at the stock exchange and what they termed as the firm's "over investment" in corporate social responsibility.

Ng'ang'a says that Safaricom has been frustrated by the share price too. "The share price has not been favourable despite the company's strong performance. This has also been affected by the general mood at the stock exchange and the company's poor economic outlook," says the chairman. Safaricom is at the moment not allowed to purchase back its shares, though this may be soon be possible with upcoming review of the capital market laws.

Collymore also warns that communication prices may rise in the future due to the rising cost of doing business -- notably fuel costs. "I would not rule out an increase in the future," says the CEO. Communication prices in India and Uganda have already gone up.

Collymore also attributed persistent data and network outages to power and fibre cuts. In Western Kenya, base stations see an average of 3 hour long power cuts per day. The CEO also welcomes the president's directive to switch off unregistered lines in an effort to reduce criminal activities. He says registered subscribers at Safaricom stand at 67% which is higher than the firm's active subscribers.

A previous directive went unheeded due to lack of a legal basis. New laws supporting the directive are slated to be passed soon.

Safaricom has 2,801 employees up from 2,467 the previous year, with 1,609 been male and 1,192 female.


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