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By Duncan Miriri
NAIROBI, May 10 (Reuters) - 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 future growth.
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 network.
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 the web.
“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) (Editing by)