Singtel earnings slide across mobile, fixed, security

Singtel's first-half revenue was down across mobile services, data and internet, fixed voice, and ICT, but up across sale of equipment, digital businesses, and pay TV.

Financials have continued sliding for Singtel, with the Singaporean telecommunications giant reporting first-half net profit of SG$1.5 billion on revenue of SG$8.4 billion, down slightly from last year's SG$8.42 billion.

Net profit was down 60 percent from SG$3.7 billion due to a one-off gain from its NetLink Trust divestment last year, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) were SG$2.3 billion, down by 6 percent due to lower National Broadband Network (NBN) migration revenues in Australia.

A breakdown of its revenue saw Singtel bring in SG$4.7 billion from Group Consumer, SG$3.1 billion from Group Enterprise, and SG$571 million from Group Digital Life.

Across its global telco brands, Singtel made SG$528 million from Telkomsel, SG$182.6 million from Globe, SG$172.5 million from AIS, and SG$50.1 million from Intouch, but a SG$239.5 million loss from Airtel, citing "intense competition in India and Indonesia".

Mobile customers across Australian brand Optus -- which used the results report to reveal that it will be launching 5G fixed-wireless services in Canberra and Brisbane in January 2019, with other Australian capital cities to follow by March -- numbered 10.2 million by the end of October, and Singtel mobile subscribers totalled 4.126 million.

During the quarter, Singtel said it picked up 109,000 4G customers in Singapore for a total of just over 3 million; post-paid average revenue per user (ARPU) was down slightly to SG$43 per month, while prepaid ARPU remained at SG$18.

Singtel fibre broadband customers grew by 7,000 during the quarter for a total of 616,000, with 99 percent of its Singapore broadband customers now on fibre connections.

First-half revenue was down year on year across mobile services, which dropped from SG$2.9 billion to SG$2.7 billion; data and internet, which was down from SG$1.7 billion to SG$1.6 billion; fixed voice, which was down from SG$565.7 million to SG$488 million; and ICT, which deopped from SG$1.49 billion to SG$1.4 billion due to its "lumpy nature" as well as a decline in Trustwave legacy payment card industry (PCI) data security business.

Cybersecurity revenue was down 2 percent to SG$138 million for the quarter, but Singtel said it is expecting this to increase by "high single digit" for the remainder of the financial year.

Revenues grew across sale of equipment, which was up from SG$965 million to SG$1.2 billion; digital businesses, which grew from SG$566.5 million to SG$584 million thanks to the first full contribution from Videology and higher revenue from Amobee; and pay TV, which was up from SG$190.8 million to SG$207 million.

"Our industry continued to face various headwinds and intense competition," Singtel Group CEO Chua Sock Koong said.

"Notwithstanding these challenges, the half-year results reflect the resilience of our business with continued focus on networks, differentiated content, unique capabilities, and innovative plans."

During Singtel's quarterly financial results presentation in August, the chief executive had said the company is looking towards 5G for future business, with the telco to launch a trial 5G network in Q4 this year.

"The group has established a 5G Centre of Excellence in Singapore, and aims to prepare for the communications ecosystem for 5G services as standards are progressively introduced," Singtel said at the time.

During the most recent quarter, Singtel's 4G network hit 1.5Gbps speeds in partnership with Ericsson, which they said are the fastest LTE speeds in Asia, via five-carrier aggregation, 256 quadrature amplitude moderation (256 QAM), 4x4 multiple-input multiple-output (4x4 MIMO), frequency-division duplex (FDD), and time-division duplex (TDD) technologies.

The new speed will be "gradually" deployed across Singapore as more spectrum is allocated for LTE.

Singtel last month also announced the launch of Via, the first cross-border mobile payment alliance in Asia in partnership with AIS and Thai digital bank Kasikornbank.

Via combines Singtel Dash with AIS Global Pay and Rabbit Line Pay, enabling QR code-based mobile payments across Singapore and Thailand. The service will later be expanded to the telco's regional companies Airtel in India, Globe in the Philippines, and Telkomsel in Indonesia.

Singtel said it would also expand to include non-telco partners such as China's Ping An eWallet, which is owned by Ping An Insurance Group.

Singtel and Optus in October also signed a memorandum of understanding on pushing esports and gaming content creation and distribution across APAC and India with Airtel, AIS, Globe, and Telkomsel.

The MOU will also see the six Singtel-owned telecommunications carriers collaborate with the "broader gaming ecosystem" across the region. According to Singtel, this will include developing original content and providing access to esports tournaments.

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