Sri Lanka’s leader in mobile telecommunications services, Dialog Axiata PLC (Dialog), doubled its December quarter (4Q16) net profits to Rs.1.25 billion or 15 cents a share in spite of some hefty net finance costs resulted from higher borrowings, the interim results showed.
The top line grew by a modest 14 percent year-on-year (YoY) or some Rs.2.8 billion during the October-December period, bringing the total top line to Rs.22.8 billion. The net finance cost shot up to a little over a billion rupees from Rs.572 million from a year earlier as the group borrowings swelled.
The long-term borrowings rose to Rs.26.3 billion from Rs.15.9 billion at the beginning of the year.
Meanwhile, for the year ended December 31, 2016, Dialog reported earnings of Rs.1.11 a share for the financial year ended December 31, 2016, up from 64 cents a share last year. The net profit was Rs.9.0 billion, a sharp 74 percent increase.
The top line rose by 17.5 percent to Rs.86.7 billion.
The performance is a clear indication of how Dialog has been successful in maintaining its growth despite the mounting pressure from low margin data usage over the voice and instant messaging.
The recent changes to value-added tax (VAT) also appear to not have had a bearing on the group. This could send the wrong signal to the policymakers that telco services are a demand inelastic commodity, which could be taxed any time they wish to fill the government coffers.
However, the sector analysts have advocated for some form of consolidation in the industry by way of mergers and acquisitions to ensure the long-term viability of it as five mobile operators fight for a less than 21 million subscriber base. The group’s mobile operation recorded revenue of Rs.73.6 billion, up by over Rs.10 billion during the 12 months. Dialog has a mobile subscriber base exceeding 11 million. The segment’s operating profit also surged by 38 percent to Rs.13.4 billion. The group’s fixed telephony and broadband operations turned an operating profit of Rs.51.9 million from a loss of Rs.43.5 million on the back of a 27.4 percent growth in revenues, which stood at Rs.9.3 billion.
The group’s pay TV business expanded operating losses to Rs.525.6 million from Rs.144.8 million last year. Revenue however improved to Rs.6.1 billion from Rs.5.8 billion.
As at December 31, 2016, the Malaysian parent, Axiata Investments (Labuan) Limited, held a 83.32 percent stake in the company followed by the Employees’ Provident Fund with a 2.2 percent stake.
Norway’s Central Bank, Norges Bank, held a 1.2 percent stake being the third largest shareholder of Dialog.
Meanwhile, Saga Tree Asia Master Fund, a mutual fund incorporated in the Cayman Islands, has entered into the top 20 shareholder list of Dialog with a 0.5 percent stake being the 10th largest shareholder.
Further Vittoria Fund ST, L.P., a company incorporated in Wilmington, United States, another new entrant, held 0.4 percent in Dialog being the 12th largest shareholder.