Disaster-filled fourth quarter drags down Optus full-year results

The three months to the end of March saw revenue fall by over 8%, EBITDA down by a quarter, and net profit hollowed out by 84%.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Asha Barbaschow/ZDNet

Optus has seen a quarter, filled with bushfires and coronavirus, take an axe to its yearly results, which despite revenue being slightly down translated into net profit being down by 40%.

For the three months to the end of March, Optus reported revenue being down 8.6% to AU$2.1 billion; earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) cut by 25% to AU$562 million; and net profit cratering by 84% to AU$37 million.

The Singaporean-owned telco said quarterly revenue was down due to natural disasters and COVID-19 driving down sales, with mobile service revenue down 6% due to more SIM-only customers and pricing competition in the market. When combined with Optus closing the accounts of inactive users, its mobile customer base shrunk by 95,000 accounts over the quarter.

Customers are also keeping phones for longer which saw equipment sales decrease sharply, the company said. It was also during Optus' fourth quarter that it experienced "delivery disruptions from a major logistics supplier", with Toll Group experiencing its first ransomware infection of the year.

For its enterprise group, revenue from managed services and cybersecurity was down 11% year on year to AU$106 million and 9% to AU$28 million, respectively. Enterprise mobile services for the quarter also fell 8.5% to AU$39 million, while equipment sales rose 4% to AU$20 million. In total, revenue for the Optus enterprise group was down 11% for the quarter while EBITDA was smashed from AU$51 million a year prior to AU$21 million.

During the quarter, the telco spent AU$308 million in capital expenditure, with AU$176 million used on its mobile network, and AU$132 million earmarked for fixed and core infrastructure. Optus also paid the AU$185 million for its 3.6GHz spectrum in the quarter.

In annual terms, revenue was down 1.6% to AU$8.95 billion, yearly EBITDA fell 1.7% to AU$2.65 billion, and net profit was down 39% to AU$402 million.

Subscribers to prepaid plans fell 1.2% year on year to 3.38 million, postpaid grew 2.5% to 5.8 million, and mobile broadband customers jumped 5.8% to AU$1.24 million. However, while net subscribers were up, average revenue per user (ARPU) went down across the three segments. Prepaid ARPU was down 2.5% to AU$18 a month, postpaid was down almost 10% on last year to AU$37, and mobile broadband fell 5.5% to AU$19.

Its consumer segment posted a revenue gain of 1.2% for the year to AU$7.75 billion and EBITDA grew 2.8% to AU$2.55 billion. However, excluding payments from the National Broadband Network for transferring customers off its networks, EBTIDA was down 15% and EBIT fell 65%.

For the year, enterprise operating revenue was down 16.5% to AU$1.2 billion and EBTIDA fell 56% to AU$96 million.

As of March 31, the company had 6,990 employees and its total NBN customer base sat at 848,000 customers.

"It has been a challenging year for our industry as consumer demand has slowed compared with the previous year, and these challenges have intensified in the last quarter as Australia managed through natural disasters and COVID-19 impacted the economy," Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin said.

"I am confident that the fundamentals of our business remain strong and I am optimistic that our strategy -- underpinned by an unwavering focus on our customers -- will continue to drive our performance as economic conditions and consumer sentiment recover."

For its Singtel parent, annual operating revenue was down 5% to SG$16.5 billion, EBITDA fell 3% to SG$4.54 billion, and net profit dove by 65% to SG$1.08 billion.

Singtel said for its 2021 fiscal year onwards, it would be shifting to half-yearly reporting and would only be providing quarterly updates of "key businesses".

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