BY TAURAI MANGUDHLA
STATE-RUN mobile telecoms firm, NetOne says last year’s strategic expansion into outback markets lifted subscribers for its mobile money platform, OneMoney by 500 000, giving it fresh impetus.
Boardroom squabbles around the controversial exit of chief executive Lazarus Muchenje intensified with courts ruling in his favour, while the NetOne board kept slapping him with fresh suspension letters.
It is a drama that has spilled into 2021, with the market unsure how it will end.
But both internal and regulator data released last week showed that in the middle of a never-ending tussle over the firm’s top chair, acting chief executive officer Raphael Mushanawani and his team focused on dressing up the operation in preparation for potential suitors being scouted for by government under a partial privatisation drive.
NetOne is the only mobile network operator which increased its market share during the year ended December 31, 2020, according to Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) data.
The data showed the firm’s market share rising by 1%, as peers Econet and Telecel Zimbabwe lost 0,8% and 0,2%, respectively.
OneMoney recorded the highest percentage growth in mobile money subscribers of 9,6% to 936 479 active subscribers, Potraz data indicated.
“Last year, OneMoney had reached close to half a million subscribers,” NetOne said on Friday.
“After a year now we are nearing a million subscribers. We have doubled our subscribers in the space of one year.
“The growth has been cemented by our increased network coverage to previously marginalised areas, allowing subscribers an opportunity to transact using OneMoney.
“As we build on the growth, 2021 will be a year that our subscribers experience addition of services through the OneMoney platform.”
The firm said it would be reintroducing massive sweeteners on airtime sales this year to build on the momentum after a OneMoney promotion giving subscribers 20% discount was suspended in 2020.
OneMoney also gives its customers low tariffs and allows direct wallet transfers from banks using the ZimSwitch platform.
In an exclusive interview with our sister title, The Standard, last week Mushanawani said NetOne had embarked on a debt restructuring programme to bring private investors into the operation.
Under a strategy unveiled by Finance minister Nthuli Ncube in 2018, government would be scouting for investors to recapitalise the combined assets of NetOne, and the land line giant, TelOne.
The plan was to make sure the combined assets were attractive for suitors to inject capital and give the companies fresh impetus for growth following years of troubles.
Mushanawani said he was confident the strategy unveiled under the Medium Term Plan would help the operation end a lengthy investment drought.
“The inclination, therefore, is to acquire assets with a higher return for which telecommunications, media and technology are poised to even grow further in the near future with the exciting work happening on the fourth industrial revolution (and) bundling the two would, therefore, be lucrative for the investor,” he said.
“It (the strategy) definitely will stand as an attractive offer with a broader asset base and opportunity for higher returns.
“Our confidence comes from the fact that, this will mean a new, much needed investment in the business and privatisation with the right commitment, will bring great business performance and efficiencies,” Mushanawani said.
- Follow Taurai on Twitter @mangudhla7