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Malaysia's Axiata swings to profit on cost cuts, data earnings

[KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysia's biggest telecoms firm Axiata Group Bhd reported a fourth quarter net profit of 24.7 million ringgit (S$8.3 million) after a net loss of 309.5 million ringgit a year earlier, helped by cost cutting and rising data earnings.

Revenue climbed 8.2 per cent to 6.3 billion ringgit, powered by strong performance from the group's main mobile units in Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh.

Axiata, Malaysia's biggest telecoms firm by market value, said the revenue rise was fuelled by the data business that contributed 49.2 per cent to service revenue compared to 37.9 per cent a year earlier.

"Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) increased by 17.5 per cent quarter-on-quarter driven by strong increase in revenue growth and cost optimisation drive across the group," it said.

Most markets saw revenue growth, but overall revenues from associates and joint ventures were weighed down by losses in India due to stiff competition, Axiata said.

The company said it hoped the merger of Idea Cellular Ltd, the loss-making Indian firm in which Axiata has as a stake, and Vodafone India Ltd would be completed in 2018.

Axiata said its 19.7 per cent stake in Idea would be diluted to 18.1 per cent as it had not participate in Idea's preferential share issuance. The stake will shrink to below 10 per cent after in the merged company.

"In the long run, we might consider a possible exit but I won't dare give guidance on the timing," Axiata Chief Executive Officer Jamaludin Ibrahim told a briefing on its results.

Axiata's shares had slipped 0.2 per cent to 5.67 ringgit at the day's close.