* First-half South African revenue fell 7 pct
* MTN has laid off 138 staff in past 12 months
(Adds MTN, analyst comments)
By Helen Nyambura
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 25 South Africa's MTN Group
plans to lay off about 850 managerial staff, a union
official said on Monday, as the mobile operator contends with
slowing revenue and tough competition in its home market after
decades of robust growth.
Africa's largest telecoms group has expanded rapidly across
the continent and in the Middle East over the past two decades
but faces stiff competition at home from South African market
Margins have also been squeezed by a price war launched by
smaller operator Cell C and after regulators decided to cut
mobile termination rates (MTR) - the fees networks charge each
another to connect calls.
"We have just received a massive retrenchment notice at
MTN," said Marius Croucamp, an official at the Solidarity union,
which largely represents skilled workers.
The process could be concluded by the end of October, he
MTN's chief human resources officer Themba Nyathi confirmed
that the company had begun restructuring to improve efficiency
but said the process is at an early stage.
"MTN SA will continue to review its cost structures,
including employee costs, to ensure better alignment with
revenue performance and the changing needs of the business and
our clients," he said in a statement.
MTN's revenue from South Africa fell by 7 percent to 19.2
billion rand ($1.8 billion) in the first half of this year while
margins also declined. Its market share dropped by nearly three
percentage points to 31.9 percent.
MTN South Africa has nearly 6,200 employees after letting go
138 in the past 12 months.
"It's certainly a symbol and a symptom of MTN's struggle to
maintain market share in South Africa," said Arthur Goldstuck,
head of industry research firm World Wide Worx.
"It's a reflection of the pressure on its margins as mobile
termination rates come down dramatically and also as it is
forced to compete on price on both data and voice."
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa has
directed the telecoms companies to halve their MTRs to 20 South
African cents a minute and to reduce this to 10 cents by March
The cuts come as the companies contend with falling prices
and a drop in the use of highly profitable text messaging as
growing numbers of people turn to internet applications instead.
The companies argue that the cuts will serve to drag on
much-needed capital just when the industry faces huge
investments in newer and faster networks.
MTN's shares were down 1.7 percent at 1220 GMT.
($1 = 10.6920 South African Rand)
(Editing by David Goodman)