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Econet Wireless steers investment towards data, content

Econet Wireless steers investment towards data, content

Zimbabwe's Econet Wireless will now focus its investments on data and content services after the company experienced a drop in its 2017 revenues and profits - although it did manage to declare a 0.46 cents dividend.

The company is Zimbabwe's largest telecommunications group with over 10 million registered network users. It also offers mobile money, banking and insurance services and recently initiated Econet Media – which will spearhead Kwese TV – a pay television platform expected to rival MultiChoice.

But in the year to the end of February 2017, Econet Wireless' after-tax profits dropped from US$40 million to US$36.1 million. It paid about US$23.5 million in taxation.

James Myers, Econet Wireless chairman said on Wednesday that data and voice services still account for the bulk of the company's revenue base, contributing as much as 60%.

Mobile money has also weighed in as Zimbabwe continues to be hobbled by liquidity constraints and challenges at its banks.

"The telecommunications industry has continued to experience a decline in revenues resulting from a deterioration of the economic environment. Operators are faced with the challenge of migrating from being voice driven businesses to data and content provision," Myers said.

During the period under review, the Zimbabwean government introduced a further 5% excise duty on airtime top-ups. The funds from this will go towards a health fund as the Southern African country scrambles to find resources to fund key state obligations in light of struggling revenue and foreign direct investment inflows.

Econet Wireless says about US$28.8 cents from every US$1 earned goes to the government in statutory payments for VAT, excise duties, levies and other fees.

The company has since adopted a new strategy to deepen new investment in data and content services as telcos diversify from voice. This comes after it has managed to pay off all its debts following a successful rights issue.

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