Airtel Africa share buyback despite profit drop on Naira depreciation

Airtel Africa (LSE: AAF) announced a $100 million share buyback on Thursday despite reporting declining profits and revenue for the third quarter, impacted by the plunging Nigerian naira currency.

The Africa-focused telecoms firm saw pretax profit drop 85% to $43 million as revenue declined 8.3% to $1.24 billion. Total finance costs more than doubled to $365 million, which Airtel attributed primarily to foreign exchange losses from the Nigerian naira devaluation.

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On December 31, the naira had plunged over 100% against the dollar from a year earlier to 897 to the dollar, after Nigeria lifted foreign currency controls in June leading to a 41% single-day dollar spike.

Despite the profit hit, Airtel aims to launch the $100 million buyback programme over 12 months from next month. Sunil Taldar also takes over as CEO in July. Outgoing CEO Olusegun Ogunsanya said further naira weakness would not impact Airtel’s African growth plans.

Airtel Africa shares rose 4.4% to 117.14p by Thursday morning as the company showed confidence despite the currency devaluation headwinds.