Econet subscribers hit 7m

HARARE - Mobile operator, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe (Econet), says its customer base has surged to over 7 million connected users from 6,4 million in February.

The company said it has the capacity to rise further to 8,5 million customers.

Econet, which releases its half-year results in the second week of October, said after a slow start due to capacity constraints which had resulted in shortages of the highly popular Buddie lines, the number of connected users had now surged to 7,1 million.

The largest telecoms operator said it had increased capacity significantly and had mopped up the backlog in demand.

Econet has assured its customers that the shortage of lines was a thing of the past and that it had the capacity to have 8,5 million subscribers on its network.

“The demand for Econet lines is extremely high and when the company temporarily suspended issuance of new lines, a black market for its lines immediately emerged, with people paying over $20 for a Buddie line, even though a smaller operator was selling lines at just $1,” the company said.

Econet’s chief executive, Douglas Mboweni, said that he was now satisfied that over 90 percent of Zimbabwean businesses were Econet customers, under its Business Partna brand.

“Our research shows that corporate Zimbabwe, both big and small, gets its service from Econet,” Mboweni said.

“We are very pleased to see that the most serious business users are our customers now. We are working hard to ensure that we give them the services they need,” he said.

In May Econet secured $307 million in lines of credit availed by its parent company Econet Wireless Global with $255 million earmarked for existing short-term loans  re-finance, whilst $52 million was reserved for financing equipment purchases for further network expansion.

The loan was arranged by AfriEximbank, and syndicated to development and financial institutions from Germany (Deutsche Investitions-und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH (DEG), France (Societe De Promotion Et De Participation Pour La Cooperation Economique (PROPARCO), China (China Development Bank Corporation (CDB]), the Netherlands (Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij Voor Ontwikkelingslanden N.V. [FMO]), South Africa (Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC), and Sweden (Exportkreditnämnden (EKN]).

In 2010, Econet secured a $60 million loan from Swedish export credit agency EKN to expand telecommunications infrastructure as it sought to profit from increasing penetration levels.

In its full-year results to February, the company recorded an 18 percent after tax increase to  $165,7 million while its revenues were up 24 percent to $611 million. - Business Writer

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