Singtel Q4 profit up 4.5% on regional growth

Mainboard-listed Singapore Telecommunications Ltd posted a 4.5 per cent rise in fourth-quarter net profit, helped by strong growth in customers and data services at its regional mobile associates. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 
Mainboard-listed Singapore Telecommunications Ltd posted a 4.5 per cent rise in fourth-quarter net profit, helped by strong growth in customers and data services at its regional mobile associates. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 

SINGAPORE (Reuters, Bloomberg) - Mainboard-listed Singapore Telecommunications Ltd posted a 4.5 per cent rise in fourth-quarter net profit, helped by strong growth in customers and data services at its regional mobile associates.

Southeast Asia's largest telecommunications operator, posted a net profit of $939 million for the three months ended in March 31, 2015, compared with $898 million in the same period a year ago. Underlying net profit totaled $950 million.

The average forecast for net profit was $975 million, according to the three analysts polled by Reuters.

Revenue for the final quarter rose 5 per cent to $4.34 billion, while pre-tax earnings from its regional mobile associates gew 12 per cent.

Full-year net profit rose 3.5 per cent to $3.78 billion as its Australian unit Optus boosted customers. That compares with the $3.8 billion average of 20 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The better result gives SingTel more cash to expand beyond its core phone business as growth in its home market slows and investments in emerging-market carriers, including India's Bharti Airtel Ltd., mature. In April, Singtel announced its biggest acquisition since the 2001 takeover of Australia's Optus by spending US$810 million to buy cyber-security business Trustwave Holdings Inc.

"They are trying to transform themselves from a pure carrier into something that is more value-added," Carey Wong, an analyst at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. in Singapore, said before the result. "They still hold a pretty dominant position in Singapore, and Optus has been improving a little bit over the past few quarters."

Said Ms Chua Sock Koong, Singtel group CEO said, "This quarter's performance underscores the strong execution of our core business. We have taken bold measures in the face of industry challenges. We aspire to be a significant global player in cyber security and our acquisition of Trustwave augments our organic initiatives.

"In the digital space, we are sharpening our focus in three key areas - digital marketing, regional premium video and advanced analytics. Our unique telco assets put us in the right place to seize opportunities in today's digital age as these services become integral in our day-to-day lives."

Singtel's board is recommending a final ordinary dividend per share of 10.7 cents, bringing the total ordinary dividend per share for the year to 17.5 cents, representing a payout of approximately $2.79 billion, an increase of 4 per cent from the previous year.

SingTel shares closed at $4.36 on Wednesday, capping a 12 per cent rise this year that's outpaced the 2.8 per cent gain in the Straits Times index.