Singapore Telecommunications on Wednesday posted its smallest annual net profit in 16 years — but the big drag on earnings came from Indonesia and India, according to its CEO.
Singtel, Southeast Asia’s largest telecom operator, reported a net profit of S$773 million ($565 million) for the quarter ended March, almost flat versus the year-ago period. Its underlying net profit, which excludes exceptional items, fell 15 percent to S$697 million.
Singtel Group CEO Chua Sock Koong told CNBC’s “Street Signs” that fourth-quarter trends were “definitely more encouraging” than the full-year numbers.
“If you look at the fourth-quarter numbers, you see very strong pickup and, in fact, topline revenue growth is about 6% on constant currency terms,” she said. “You’ve seen good growth coming through consumer businesses both in Singapore and Australia.”
Chua also told CNBC that Singtel’s digital business showed “very strong topline growth” but its earnings were weighed down by India and Indonesia.
“Intense competition has affected the markets in India and Indonesia this past year,” Chua said in a separate statement.
The company continued to be optimistic about the growth potential of its associates’ markets, she added.
“We will accelerate our digitalisation efforts to drive better customer experience and improve productivity and cost structure by transforming our processes,” she said.
The company reported net profit of S$3.1 billion for the year ended March versus S$5.47 billion a year ago, which had included a divestment gain from the listing of its broadband unit NetLink NBN Trust.
Analysts had an average estimate of S$3.08 billion for the full-year net profit, according to Refinitiv data, which showed the results marked Singtel’s lowest headline profit since its 2003 fiscal year.
Underlying net profit for the year fell 21 percent to S$2.83 billion.
The group’s consolidated revenue is expected to grow by a mid-single digit and its consolidated earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) is forecast to be stable for the year ending March 2020.