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JOHANNESBURG, June 18 (Reuters) - Africa’s biggest pay-TV group MultiChoice swung to a loss in its first full-year results as a standalone company on Tuesday, but its shares rose anyway as solid subscriber growth, cost reductions and other positive developments took centre stage instead.
MultiChoice, which was spun off by South African e-commerce giant Naspers and listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in February, had already warned it expected to make a headline loss per share as a result of a one-off charge and unfavourable foreign exchange.
It had also already flagged strong growth in subscriptions and a reduction in losses in its businesses outside of its home market, South Africa, but nevertheless news it had grown subscribers by 12%, along with other developments, helped push its share price up 1.37% by 1403 GMT.
“Our growth is exceptionally pleasing, especially in the current economic climate, and a clear indication that our strategy is working,” Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice chief executive, said in a statement.
Founded 30 years ago, MultiChoice now reaches 15.1 million households across 50 African countries with pay-TV products and a fledging streaming service called Showmax it hopes can rival giants like Netflix on the continent.
Its subscriber numbers rose by 1.6 million people over the year, with its customer base across the rest of Africa exceeding its 7.4 million South Africa subscribers for the first time.
Losses in its operation outside of South Africa, which analysts said had weighed on its market value during its JSE debut, were also reduced by 900 million rand.
While the company’s stock rose 15% on the day of its much-anticipated listing, launching it immediately on to the bourse’s blue-chip index, its closing market value remained well below some estimates for the underlying value of the company. Its share price has risen around 22 percent since then.
The company also reported cost savings of 1.3 billion rand and a doubling of free cash flow to 3.3 billion rand. However its headline earnings per share - the main profit measure in South Africa that strips out certain one-off items - fell from 410 cents in the prior year to a loss of 353 cents in the year to end-March.
This was due to the impact of a disposal of a 5% stake in its South African unit, and the depreciation of the rand against the U.S. dollar, which meant it had to pay more for dollar-denominated leases for transponders. ($1 = 14.5455 rand) (Reporting by Emma Rumney. Editing by Jane Merriman)