MTN Pares Gains on Nearing Subscriber Target: Johannesburg Mover

MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s largest mobile-phone operator, closed at almost month-high levels as the company said it will probably reach its target of 21 million new subscribers this year.

The shares closed 0.2 percent lower at 164.75 rand in Johannesburg, paring earlier gains of as much as 2.6 percent in the final hour of trading. The company is on track to add 21 million more customers this year helped by growth in countries from Nigeria and Iran to Afghanistan, it said in a statement today.

“MTN is loved by the market and most of the traders and investors like MTN compared to Vodacom,” Sibonginkosi Nyanga, an analyst at Imara SP Reid (Pty) Ltd., said by phone from Johannesburg today. “MTN operates in a number of geographies which means if competition heats up in South Africa, it probably might be making money in Iran or somewhere else.”

MTN, based in Johannesburg, is seeking acquisition targets in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East and may spend as much as $8 billion on deals, building on an increase in spending on networks last year that held back earnings, the company said on April 11.

Vodafone Group Plc, the world’s second-largest mobile service provider that owns a 65 percent-stake in South African-based Vodacom Group Ltd., said yesterday it plans to invest more in its African businesses to offset stagnant earnings in Europe.

MTN added 3.5 million new customers in Nigeria during the first quarter while its full-year target is for 7 million, Nyanga said. The company currently has 195.4 million subscribers, it said.

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