JOHANNESBURG: MTN, the largest mobile phone operator in Africa, saw its total number of subscribers almost double last year to 90.7 million, and is also reported to be planning to expand its operations internationally.

The company's profits rose by 44% to R17.1bn ($1.7bn; €1.3bn; £1.2bn) year-on-year for 2008 as a whole, with revenues also growing by 40% to R102bn.

In its largest market, Nigeria, MTN posted a 40% increase in subscribers to 23 million, and its overall share in the country grew by 1% to 44%.

As well as investing in its current infrastructure and network, ceo Phuthuma Nhleko argues the company is aiming to pursue options both in Africa and beyond.

It hopes to increase subscriber numbers by 22.6 million in 2009, with its main target countries in Africa including Angola and Ethiopia, which are also thought to be of interest to state-owned South African firm Telkon, and Vodacom, a unit of Vodafone.

Nhleko argued the large number of new entrants into the African market means MDN must find ways of achieving "consolidation in the region where we operate and also on a global scale."

Other area of potential expansion include Asia, and last year MDN discussed the possibility of alliances of Indian operators Bharti Airtel and Reliance, though a tie-up did not result with either firm.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff