Morocco: Major African Mobile Markets: Future Growth Prospects

Morocco is a developing economy and faces problems typical to every developing nation. Some of these include issues regarding privatisation, government spending and economic growth. Morocco has rich natural mineral resources and is the world's largest exporter of phosphates. The country's manufacturing and tourism sectors have also gained prominence in local economics in the recent past.

 

In 2004, the government took some favourable steps to boost trade and foreign direct investment in the country, such as signing a free trade treaty with the US, partially privatising some of the largest banks and telecom companies, etc. Such steps are constantly adding to the country's economic growth and making it an attractive destination for foreign investment activity.

Table 1 provides an overview of the country's key economic parameters.

Table 1: Morocco - Important Economic Parameters (2010)

 

Economic Parameter Value
Population (July '10) 31,627,428
Population Growth (AAGR) 1.08%
Unemployment Rate 9.8%
GDP (PPP) $4,900
GDP real growth rate 4.2%
FDI inflows (2009) $1.333 bn
 

 

The telecom sector has further scope for growth primarily because of the government's focus on increasing network coverage, encouraging e-commerce and bringing in new technologies.

Telecom Industry Overview

Morocco's telecom market is one of the most developed markets in Africa. It has one of the highest overall telecom penetration rates compared to other countries in the region. The sector has undergone various structural reforms in the past, such as the establishment of a separate regulatory authority (National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT)) for the sector in 1998.

At the end of 2004, fixed-line services were provided by only one operator - Maroc Telecom, which is 34.1 percent government owned. Later, a second fixed-line licence was issued to Meditel in December 2005. A third license is expected to be granted soon.

Significantly, the country's mobile market is more developed than its fixed-line market, with wireline penetration at end-September 2005 less than 5 percent, while mobile penetration had already exceeded 33 percent at end-June 2005.

The telecom sector offers plenty of scope for growth, primarily because of the government's focus on increasing network coverage, encouraging e-commerce and adopting new technologies.

Table 2 provides an overview of the country's telecom sector in terms of segment-wise subscriber numbers and penetration rates.

Table 2: Morocco - Telecom Industry Snapshot December 2010 

Segment Subscriber (Million) Penetration
Fixed lines (December 2010) 3.749 11.9%
Internet (December 2010) 1.867 5.9%
Mobile (December 2010) 31.982 101.5%
 
 

Figure 1 illustrates the forecasts for mobile subscriber growth and penetration rate in Morocco for the 14-year period from 2002 to 2015.

Figure 1: Morocco - Mobile Subscribers and Penetration 2002-2015E

Morocco - Mobile Subscribers and Penetration 2002-2015E

Source: Blycroft Publishing

Major Mobile Operators 

Maroc emerged as the leader with more than two-thirds of the market share in terms of number of mobile subscribers in Morocco. At the end of September 2005, it had a market share of 67.1 percent as compared to 32.9 percent of Meditel.

Figure 2 provides the market share of the operators in terms of their respective subscriber base at the end of June 2005.

Figure 2: Morocco- Market Share of Mobile Network Operators December 2010

Morocco- Market Share of Mobile Network Operators December 2010

Source: ANRT

The duopoly of these operators is likely to come to an end in 2008, as the country's telecom regulator plans to issue a third GSM licence in 2007 for commercial launch of a new network by 2008.

The two operators currently providing mobile services in Morocco are discussed below:

Maroc Telecom (IAM)

Maroc, a partially held government operator, was the first to provide mobile services in the country.

Maroc Telecom provides GSM-based mobile services and launched 2.5G (GPRS) services for its post-paid customers in 2004, along with MMS and the usual array of other non-voice value added services, such as SMS, logo downloads, picture messaging, etc. The network of Maroc Telecom covers about 97 percent of the Moroccan population. It won a 3G licence in September 2005 at a cost of USD 36.7 million.

Apart from the government, Vivendi Universal, the French media and telecoms group, holds the majority stake in Maroc Telecom. Since January 2005, Vivendi has increased its stake in Maroc to 51 percent from its earlier stake of 35 percent.

Figure 3, below, illustrates the shareholding structure of the company.

Figure 3: Maroc Telecom - Ownership Structure (November 2004)

Maroc Telecom - Ownership Structure (November 2004)

Source: Company Reports

Table 4 provides an overview of the operator's key performance indicators.

Table 4: Maroc Telecom - Key Performance Indicators (FY end-December 2004)

Maroc Telecom - Key Performance Indicators (FY end-December 2004)

Source: Company Reports

Meditel In 2000, competition was introduced in Morocco's mobile market by the entry of Meditel. It provides services on its 2G (GSM) network and of course also offers the ubiquitous SMS to its subscribers. The operator is currently trialling 2.5G (GPRS) services.

Figure 4 shows the latest ownership structure of the company.

Figure 4: Meditel - Ownership Structure

Meditel - Ownership Structure

Source: http://www.ptii.pt/

Table 5 provides an overview of the operator's key performance indicators, where available.

Table 5: Meditel - Key Performance Indicators (FY end-December 2004)

Meditel - Key Performance Indicators (FY end-December 2004)

Source: Company Reports

Recent Developments

Some of the recent developments in Morocco's mobile market are as follows:

Mergers and Acquisitions

In July 2005, the Moroccan Ministry of Finance and Privatisation (MFP) announced its plans to completely privatise Maroc Telecom by selling its entire 34 percent stake in the company. Its privatisation is targeted to be complete before the end of 2006.

The regulators' plan to issue a third GSM licence in 2007 for commercial launch of its services by 2008 would introduce greater competition in the duopoly mobile market of Morocco.

Regulatory Developments

The regulator awarded the country's first 3G licence for an amount of USD 36.7 million to Maroc in September 2005.

Future Outlook

The liberalisation policies of the Moroccan government have played an important role in the growth of its mobile market. The development of this sector has in turn proved beneficial for the country's GDP, infrastructure development and employment situation. Liberalisation in the market is an ongoing process, especially at a time when competition between African countries to attract foreign investors is on the rise.

Some of the factors that are expected to positively influence the future of the Moroccan mobile market include73:

Further liberalisation of the sector

ANRT, the country's official telecom regulatory body, aims to maintain fair competition in the market and continue with the liberalisation process by taking further positive steps, such as the proposed privatisation of the final stake of Maroc Telecom. The Moroccan government expects growth in the country's mobile market to continue over the next 10 years, witnessing a doubling of the current penetration rate.

Launch of new technologies

While Maroc Telecom has commercially launched 2.5G GPRS-based services, Meditel only initiated these services on a trial basis in 2005, and once fully commercially launched, the improved services should help to drive growth. Moreover, the regulator issued the first 3G licence in the country in the second half of 2005, and it is anticipated that the launch of such services will provide further impetus to the country's mobile market in terms of both an increase in subscriber numbers and growth in the uptake of non-voice value-added services.

Competition between operators

The regulator plans to issue a third GSM licence in 2007 for commercial launch of a new network by 2008. Such a step will undoubtedly stimulate further competition in the current duopoly mobile market of Morocco, and positively influence the uptake of mobile services in the country.

The number of mobile subscribers in Morocco is expected to be nearly 29.29 million by the end of 2011, with a corresponding penetration rate of 81.8 percent.