Etisalat Nigeria, the fourth Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) operator in Nigeria has invested $2.46 billion in Nigeria to build and expand its telecommunications network infrastructure. The investment which was made over the past three years covers the core network, transmission network and power network facilities.
According to Mr. Steve Evans, chief executive officer, Etisalat Nigeria, the shareholders of the company have invested $1.8 billion on their own while $660 million syndicated loan from eight Nigerian banks which came in December 2010 have as well been pumped into the network expansion programme of the company.
Evans said the fruits of the investments had started to bear fruit with the late entrant into Nigeria’s GSM service market covering 73 per cent of the Nigerian population currently. Etisalat which started operation in October 2008 already has 9.5 million subscribers on its network and is hoping to achieve the 10 million mark before the end of the year.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY on plans to commemorate the company’s three years of operation in Nigeria, Evans said Etisalat had within its three years in Nigeria begun to make profit from an operating perspective. “It is important to say that coming up to our third anniversary we have become EBITDA positive, (Earnings Before Interest Tax
Depreciation and Amortization). Effectively, what it means is from an operating perspective, we are profitable and we achieved this in August for the first time.
“We have achieved an operating profit within three years of operation and we cover in terms of network coverage, 73 per cent of the population of Nigeria. The shareholders have invested $1.8 billion and they’ve put those funds into the business.
Most of them have been spent on building cell sites, building data centres, building transmission backbone. But obviously some of it has gone into subsidising the operating cost of the business initially because when you operate at the beginning you are not generating an operating profit, you have to buy buildings; you have to hire staff and everything else.”
He said coming into a market where other operators have been operating for about seven years was no easy task as they had to contend with several challenges from the incumbents who didn’t give them chance of survival.
“When we came into the marketplace, nobody wanted to allow us to co-locate on their base stations. We had to build all our own base stations from the scratch apart from some base stations which we took from people like Helios Towers and co-located on those base stations,” Evans stated.
He said it had been a lot of very big challenges and credited its team with being a very good key ingredient for success.
On plans to celebrate three years of operation in Nigeria, the Etisalat chief executive said strategies are being mapped out to reward loyal customers who have been with the operator these past three years. He said its customers should expect more innovative products and services, quality service and value for money from Etisalat going forward.