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StarHub Q3 earnings up 1.7%, cuts full-year service revenue forecast

MAINBOARD-LISTED telco StarHub saw its third-quarter bottom line hold steady, as minority interests absorbed a slip in profits, according to results released on Tuesday.

Net profit for the three months to Sept 30 was up by 1.7 per cent year-on-year at S$58 million, as revenue decreased 1.6 per cent to S$572.6 million, with earnings per share flat at 3.2 Singapore cents.

Still, profit attributable to both shareholders and non-controlling interests was down by 2.4 per cent to S$56.6 million, as StarHub saw a higher share of loss of associate and tax expenses.

Service revenue was down by the double-digits in the mobile and pay-television segments, and also fell in the broadband division.

But turnover from the enterprise business grew by 16.7 per cent, despite a decline in contributions from network solutions, as revenue from the fledgling and loss-making cybersecurity arm more than doubled.

StarHub owns 60 per cent of Ensign InfoSecurity, a cybersecurity joint venture with state investment firm Temasek Holdings, which comprises former subsidiaries Accel Systems & Technologies and D'Crypt. During the last quarter, StarHub and D'Crypt's founding shareholders sold their shares in D'Crypt to Temasek for S$100 million, turning it into an indirect subsidiary of Ensign.

StarHub has now downgraded its full-year service revenue forecast to a decline of between 2 per cent and 3 per cent, down from an earlier guidance of stable to 2 per cent decline, as service revenue for the nine-month period came in lower by 3.9 per cent.

Mobile post-paid average revenue per user (ARPU) slipped to S$39, down from S$44 in the year-ago period, while the subscriber base fell quarter-on-quarter to 1.44 million on the termination of what StarHub called "low-ARPU enterprise lines".

For the nine months, net profit tumbled by 16.6 per cent to S$151.5 million, as revenue dipped by 1.2 per cent to S$1.72 billion.

"Year-on-year results reflect declines in mobile and TV revenues but higher demand for cloud, data network services, digital and cybersecurity solutions is driving strong growth in our enterprise segment," chief executive Peter Kaliaropoulos said in a statement.

He said that the company's strategic transformation, which was rolled out soon after he joined the company in July 2018 and included the retrenchment of 300 full-time employees, "is tracking well and may likely exceed the targeted S$210 million gross savings by FY2021".

"Some of the savings are being redirected to fund our digital transformation and new acquisition opportunities and enhance our customers' overall experience," Mr Kaliaropoulos added.

The board has recommended an interim dividend of 2.25 Singapore cents per share, down from four Singapore cents in the year-ago period, in line with a trimmed dividend policy announced previously. The books will close on Nov 14 and the interim dividend will be paid on Nov 27.

Market data shows StarHub underperforming the telecommunications sector on the Singapore bourse. It had a negative total return of 21.4 per cent in the year to Oct 31, the Singapore Exchange noted in a report on its "My Gateway​" investor education portal - against the sector's positive return of 6.7 per cent, which was buoyed by Singtel and NetLink NBN Trust.

StarHub closed up S$0.02 or 1.54 per cent to S$1.32 on Tuesday before the results were released.

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