Opinion: Class Of 1995, The Airtel IPO Is Here. Let’s Leave Something For The Next Generation.

by Business Times
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By David Birungi.

The year 1995 is etched in Uganda’s contemporary history in many different ways. I will stick with only two because less is more.

I don’t know where you were at the time, that August 1995, I learned a new word “promulgation”. It was a buzzword at school because the new Ugandan constitution was going to be promulgated on the eve of Uganda’s 33rd Independence. This constitution remains the supreme law of this pearl of Africa. Other laws like The Communications Act of 2013 and all related policies and regulations are subject to this constitution.

1995 is also the year Uganda’s first cellular service, under Celtel, opened operations in Uganda. It became possible to have a communication line without the need to beg Uganda Posts and Telecommunications (UP&TC) or appealing to the then Kalungi East Legislator, Hon Kintu Musoke who was the Prime Minister. Walls had been broken. The debate on whether the Mobile phone has connected us or divided us, is for another day.

At a personal level, in 1995, full of promise, I completed O’level in a school that never had a telephone line or a smart TV. That school now has 4G broadband connection.

Neither the constitution, Celtel nor myself have remained the same. The Constitution has been amended in tandem with times introducing subordinate laws like the 2013 Communications Act and related legislation.

Celtel was acquired by many suitors and is now Airtel Uganda that recently announced the floating of 8billion ordinary shares each at UGX100/=.  I have since reunited with my old school mates “Class of 95” and joined Airtel Uganda. My classmates having reunited in 2021, have saved over 180Million shillings. How I wish we had the capacity or the awakening to save since 1995.

Why is this reflection important. You will need to read the next section with a professional financial advisor. I am not one of them.

If you live in the generation x like me, we have been accused of running and ruining society because of the perceived senseless pursuit of private gain. The jury is still out on this. Profit is not bad.

According to the Airtel Uganda Initial Public Offering (IPO) information, Airtel has been making decent profits and the IPO is an opportunity for the Class of 1995 to share in the success of their then classmate, Celtel.

Naturally I have been inundated by queries from the committee of “Class of 1995” which I serve as a Vice Chairman, to give information regarding the IPO. I have insisted that we hire a financial advisor to evaluate what I know. Here is what I know so far;

The company is now the co-leader in the market with 49% revenue, and 47.3% subscriber market share, respectively. Airtel Uganda also has the longest security of tenure of a license for 20 years.

The Company has established itself as the most innovative cellular mobile network operator in Uganda and was the first mobile network operator in Uganda to introduce 4G LTE technology across all its sites, currently covering 90.7% of the Ugandan population with its leading 100% 4G Network. This means that the infrastructure has already been laid ahead of the usage.

I have also read that for the year ended 3st December 2022, Airtel Uganda had Revenues, EBITDA and Net Income of UGX 1,594 billion, UGX 888 billion and UGX 326 billion, respectively. The Company is #1 in Average Revenue per User and has market leading EBITDA margins (55.7%). Get your classmate of 1995 to check these numbers.

I have also told my OBs and OGs that Uganda is generally a young population and every day thousands turn 18 years of age, and when they do, they immediately require a voter’s card, a smartphone, and the right to have sex. For some unfortunate ones, these come earlier.

We attended good schools, celebrated the arrival of Nokia 3310, built in Jomayi estates because Kasulu Property masters was ahead of us.

Let’s leave some equity for the next generation because social security is not what NSSF pays us at the end of our work life but the society we retire into. That society is waiting for us.

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