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Calculated risks pay off for Nhleko

Read time 2min 30sec

Outgoing MTN CEO Phuthuma Nhleko yesterday presented his final annual results presentation for the group, boasting a 22% increase in subscribers, to 141.6 million, as well as an increased shareholder payout dividend ratio to 55%.

But Nhleko's leadership success at MTN is not limited to the latest set of results, which MTN Group chairman Cyril Ramaphosa pointed out in his tribute to Nhleko, whom he describes as one of SA's top businessmen.

Ramaphosa said that when Nhleko began his tenure as CEO of MTN, in mid-2002, it was clear that he was a leader of great focus and vision.

Under Nhleko's leadership, MTN's operations grew from five to 21, spanning the African and Asian continents. The population that MTN reaches has grown from 68 million in 2000, to 344 million in 2005, to 552 million in 2010.

“What is most telling is that this company that was born in this country started to explode beyond its borders and started to address a market of 552 million people,” noted Ramaphosa.

He went on to explain that MTN current holds a market cap of R253 billion, up from R58 billion in 2000.

“Even from the beginning, MTN started growing beyond the borders of its own local market.” Ramaphosa attributes this success to Nhleko's good appetite for taking calculated risks.

“Phuthuma took MTN to markets where others may have feared to go,” stated Ramaphosa.

Also under Nhleko's leadership, MTN's revenue grew from R6 billion in 2000 to R29 billion in 2005, and R50.5 billion in 2010.

Subscriber numbers also surged under Nhleko's leadership; in 2000 MTN had 2.3 million subscribers and by 2010 that had grown to 141.7 million.

Ramaphosa also took the opportunity to welcome Nhleko's successor, Sifiso Dabengwa, who has been with the company for 12 years - his most recent position being MTN COO.

“He is an old hand that knows how the company works, as well as the challenges facing the company as it moves forward,” he stated.

Rich rewards

Nhleko thanked the chairman for the encouraging words, but noted that his success was part of a team effort. Nonetheless, his hard work has been rewarded - he recently sold MTN shares of over R400 million in value.

It was also revealed that Nhleko, who was the highest paid in the ICT space in 2009, is still at the top of the overall telecoms and IT remuneration list.

Last year, he received guaranteed pay of R7 964 000, with a bonus of R8 million, taking his total salary to R15 694 000.

Nhleko currently holds non-executive positions on the board oil giant BP and mining conglomerate Anglo American.

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