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Singtel Q2 profit jumps 197% to S$2.9b on NetLink Trust divestment, to pay special dividend

Singtel announced a 197.1 per cent jump in second quarter earnings to S$2.9 billion, boosted by gains from the divestment of 75.2 per cent of its stake in NetLink Trust in July this year.

SINGTEL announced a 197.1 per cent jump in second-quarter earnings to S$2.9 billion, boosted by gains from the divestment of 75.2 per cent of its stake in NetLink Trust in July this year.

Net profit for the three months to Sept 30, 2017, came in at a record S$2.89 billion from S$972 million for the year-ago quarter after a gain from the divestment of S$2.05 billion brought exceptional items to S$1.93 billion from S$3.4 million previously.

Operating revenue for the quarter rose 6.9 per cent to S$4.37 billion from S$4.09 billion a year ago. This included revenue contributions from digital marketing company Turn which was acquired in April this year.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation was up 5 per cent, which Singtel said "reflected the strong performance of its core business bolstered by higher post-paid mobile and fixed broadband customer numbers in Australia."

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Underlying net profit for the quarter fell 4 per cent, impacted by Airtel, which continues to face intense price competition in India, said the telco. This mainly led to a 10.6 per cent fall in associates' pre-tax earnings to S$648 million.

Excluding Airtel, underlying net profit for the quarter would have risen 3 per cent.

A special dividend three Singapore cents per share will be paid out, totalling about S$500 million out of S$2.3 billion in proceeds from the divestment of NetLink Trust.

This is on top of an interim dividend of 6.8 cents per share, the same as last year.

For the half-year, net profit increased 97.3 per cent to S$3.78 billion from S$1.92 billion a year ago. Revenue rose 7.6 per cent to S$8.6 billion, with underlying earnings down 3.8 per cent to S$1.84 billion.

Said Singtel group CEO Chua Sock Koong: "Our first half results have been achieved against a tougher business backdrop, a testament to the strength of our core and digital businesses. Digital and ICT (information and communications technology) services now account for 25 per cent of our revenue, reflecting positive momentum in our digital transformation. Our digital marketing arm Amobee has scored more customer wins and is gaining strong momentum in Asia."

Ms Chua elaborated at a media session on the influx of cash from the divestment, saying: "The proceeds from the NetLink Trust divestment, we've got the special dividend, which would account for S$500 million. The rest of the proceeds could go into what I call investments."

She added: "Clearly, in the core business, continued investment in spectrum would be a key use of the funds. And we would continue to look also at some of the digital growth initiatives where we have invested."

These could be digital marketing, cybersecurity or "other new digital initiatives".

With digital and ICT businesses making up 25.1 per cent of revenue for the quarter, up from 20.9 per cent the previous year, Ms Chua said that this was "confirmation of the kind of momentum we are seeing in our digital efforts".