Axiata Group Berhad posted improved QoQ performance on all key financial metrics in its unaudited financial performance for the first quarter ending 31 March 2017.
Revenue for the Group stood at RM5.9 billion for the quarter on the back of strong growth in Data revenue which grew almost 10% QoQ and 43.3% YoY to now account for 40.9% of total service revenue.
EBITDA was up by 8.8% to RM2.2 billion as a result of better performance from the Operating Companies (OpCos) and greater cost efficiencies. Lower Depreciation and Amortisation (D&A) and net finance cost, as well as forex gains led to the Group’s normalised PATAMI improving to RM291 million as compared to RM77 million in the preceding quarter.
Prudent execution of financial management initiatives in the quarter resulted in a stronger balance sheet. The Group successfully pared RM1.6 billion loans including its US Dollar exposed debts by USD213 million. Improvements in EBITDA further led to gross debt/EBITDA to fall below its debt covenant of 2.5x, reducing from 2.64x in the preceding quarter to 2.40x in the current quarter. Cash balance also grew from RM5.3 billion to RM6.7 billion, a healthy 26.1% growth, over the period.
Amidst hyper competition and depressed industry growth in the first quarter, Celcom grew its postpaid revenue by 1.2% QoQ driven by its enhanced postpaid plans, First Gold 80 and First Platinum. This in turn delivered higher ARPU at RM81 to show signs of softening revenue decline. Data revenue grew 29.8% YoY and contributed 44.8% to total service revenue.
XL’s transformation agenda has started to deliver better financial performance in addition to continued operational strength. For the quarter, XL showed better-than-industry growth in both total revenue and EBITDA. XL also recorded its third consecutive quarter of service revenue growth driven by an 8.9% increase in Data revenue. Smart continued its strong performance fueled by excellent data monetization and effective cost management with Data accounting for 52.3% of total service revenue.
Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim, President & Group Chief Executive Officer of Axiata said, “Coming off a very challenging year, I am encouraged by the overall improved performance for the quarter. The turnaround at Celcom is progressing on track and showing some stabilisation. XL’s new strategy, after some challenges last year, is coming together well especially in the data leadership of the XL brand and better results in geographical areas outside Java. However, at both companies, there are still lots more required. Our investments in data are being monetized with Data revenue at Celcom, XL and Smart accounting for 40% - 50% of total service revenue.
Jamaludin added: “Heightened competition and tax and regulatory challenges are a constant in the industry and across our footprint. Coupled with rising capex weighing in on overall profitability, the Group remains prudent in how we manage our finances, and execute on our Group-wide cost optimization plans. This is to ensure our investments for growth, data leadership and ambition to become a digital company stay on track. For 2017, the Group continues in its commitment to be the clear number one in 4G and data leadership in selected key markets as well as lead in the digital space.”