MOBILE network provider MTN has spent R2.1bn buying back shares in the six months to the end of June, it said on Wednesday.
In the absence of acquisitions during that period, it opted to pay dividends and buy back shares.
In addition to the R930m spent in the second half of last year, MTN has so far spent just more than R3bn buying back 1.2% of its stake. The company’s shareholders have approved the buyback of shares to a total of R5bn.
CEO Sifiso Dabengwa said on Wednesday the share buyback was part of MTN’s "shareholder returns strategy".
The company has also increased its dividend payout ratio to 72% of headline earnings per share, from 70% before, following the removal of secondary tax on companies in South Africa.
Mr Dabengwa said the company was still looking for acquisition opportunities, although so far it had not been successful. "Bolt-on standalone (acquisitions) remained a strategic priority," he said.
MTN looked at acquisitions in Angola, Ethiopia and the Middle East, but nothing materialised.
However, the company will apply for a value-added service licence in Ethiopia, to provide services other than mobile networks.
"At the moment the regulator is not open for a (second) mobile network licence, and having a VAS (value-added service) licence will put us in a strong position" when the regulator invites applications for the second licence, said Mr Dabengwa.
MTN reported a 6.9% rise in total subscribers to 176-million in the six months to June.
Market conditions continued to be affected by increasing levels of competition, regulatory requirements, political unrest in certain countries and the global economic slowdown, Mr Dabengwa said.
Despite these challenges, revenue showed solid growth of 17.5% to R66,4bn, driven mainly by strong operational performance and competitive value propositions in South Africa, Iran and Ghana.
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