SA shares drift lower, MTN weighs

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African shares ended in the red on Thursday dragged lower by mining companies and telecommunications operator MTN, which surprised investors with news it was struggling to sign on new subscribers in Nigeria.

MTN was the biggest decliner on the blue-chip index having slipped more than 4 percent after slashing its full-year forecast for Nigerian subscriber growth by nearly a third.

MTN now expects to add 3.5 million users in Africa’s biggest economy this year, from its previous forecast of 5 million.

“That comes as a bit of a surprise. Many participants in the market were looking for a correction in Nigeria,” said Nadim Mohammed, a telecoms industry analyst at First Avenue Investment Management.

The Top-40 index slipped 0.26 percent to 42,921 and the All-share lost 0.2 percent to 48,104.

Johannesburg-listed resource producers such as Kumba Iron Ore and Assore also drifted lower as a survey out of China showed the world’s second-largest economy performing sluggishly at the start of the fourth quarter.

South African retailer Mr Price was the biggest blue-chip gainer, jumping nearly 4 percent. The seller of clothing and household merchandise flagged the market that its first-half diluted headline earnings would rise to as much as 351.7 cents per share from 283.6 cents a year ago.

Overall trade was relatively stable with 160 million shares changing hands, according to preliminary bourse figures.