(Recasts with customer numbers)
By Duncan Miriri
NAIROBI May 10 Kenyan telecoms operator
Safaricom increased its customers to boost its
full-year pretax profit by more than a quarter, and it is
planning to start an electronic commerce platform to support
The company, Kenya's biggest by market value and 40 percent
owned by Britain's Vodafone, said subscribers increased
by 12 percent to 28 million in its year to end-march.
"The biggest growth area is customers," Chief Executive Bob
Collymore told Reuters after an investor briefing.
The number of new customers during the period was triple the
estimated annual Kenyan population growth of about a million.
Pretax profit jumped 26.7 percent to 70.6 billion shillings
($684.44 million) as revenue from mobile financial services and
Internet access grew by double digits, Safaricom said.
Revenue from short messaging services dipped slightly, as
the operator started feeling the impact of messaging services
such as WhatsApp. Revenue from voice calls grew modestly.
The company's growth of revenue from its Internet connection
business has trailed that of other African and global operators.
Collymore, whose tenure as CEO was extended by two years on
Wednesday, said the company would seek to increase revenue by
connecting homes to the Internet using fiber, or a fixed
Safaricom also wanted to develop broadcast content for users
of its home broadband, he said, but its application for a
broadcast license had been pending with the regulator for the
last two years.
"It is not just delivering Netflix and NatGeoWild, of course
it is about bringing local content as well," he said.
Safaricom plans to enter electronic commerce this year,
leveraging its customer base and its M-Pesa payments platform,
to offer small and medium enterprises a local market place on
"It is effectively setting up a mixture between Alibaba and
Amazon," Collymore said, adding more details about the
initiative would be provided later.
He said recent calls for the company's M-Pesa mobile money
transfer service business to be hived off, were "ill-advised".
A draft report on competition in the sector that was
commissioned by the regulator and leaked, recommended the
financial business be hived off. The regulator has since said it
does not intend to break up any company.
($1 = 103.1500 Kenyan shillings)