CEO: SIFISO DABENGWA COMPANY: MTN
1-year return: 22.7% His Challenge: ‘Gotta keep ’em separated…’ Grade: C
SIFISO DABENGWA, MTN’s rather well-compensated CEO, gets a “C for Competent”. Admittedly, it has been a challenging year for Africa’s biggest mobile operator, as it fends off a $4.2bn lawsuit f iled by Turkish operator Turkcell. Yet instead of taking a bold stance and confidently reassuring shareholders of MTN’s innocence, Dabengwa got his PR lackeys to issue a few stiff ly worded press releases.
To add to the funny-smelling odour hanging over the operator and its chief, the Shanduka Group recently acquired a minority stake in MTN Nigeria. Why does this smell like sardines? Because not only does local politician and millionaire Cyril Ramaphosa sit on both of these companies’ boards, but Dabengwa is in a romantic relationship with Phuti Mahanyele, Shanduka’s CEO. If all this doesn’t reek of multiple conflicts of interest, then nothing will.
Apart from the potential skullduggery, however, we have to give Dabengwa credit for keeping MTN on track in a highly competitive and over-saturated local environment. The Group grew its subscriber numbers by 6.9% to 175.9m from December 2011, with revenue increasing by 17.5%. Perhaps helped along more by momentum than by magnificent leadership, MTN continues to be a top pick for local investors. In June 2012, the Group declared a dividend per share of 321 cents, with a 72% payout ratio.