Henderson Global sells Singtel as competition rises

Singtel will likely report a decline in annual operating profit for the fifth year in a row next month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Singtel will likely report a decline in annual operating profit for the fifth year in a row next month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Stock down 4.3% this month on spectrum costs, TPG expansion

Rising competition in Singtel's key markets across Asia has prompted one of the world's biggest independent money managers to sell the stock.

Henderson Global Investors, which oversees about US$130 billion (S$182 billion) globally, sold its Singtel holdings in Asia-based portfolios last month, said Mr Sat Duhra, who manages Asian dividend-focused investments for Henderson.

Singtel's key markets are growing more crowded as Australian carrier TPG Telecom steps up its regional expansion, Mr Duhra said. Singtel shares fell as much as 1.1 per cent.

"If you look at Singtel, Singapore's going to have more competition, Australia's going to have more competition, India's going to have more competition," Mr Duhra said in an interview.

"It's going to face some short-term pressure."

While South-east Asia's largest listed company by market value still has buy ratings from almost two-thirds of the analysts who cover it, the stock dropped 4.3 per cent since April 4 until Thursday, after the carrier's spending on a Singapore spectrum auction exceeded estimates and TPG announced plans to build a cellular network in Australia a week later.

Singtel will probably report a decline in annual operating profit for the fifth consecutive year next month, according to the average of 12 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

A company spokesman, in response to questions from Bloomberg News, said: "Singtel is not new to competition. We compete as an incumbent here in Singapore, and as a strong No. 2 in our other key market in Australia.

"Our business is built on continuous investments in innovation and technology, and offering the best services at the best prices that suit the changing lifestyles of our customers."

Singtel owns Optus, the second-largest telecommunications company in Australia, and also has stakes in Advanced Info Service and Intouch Holdings in Thailand, Bharti Airtel in India, Globe Telecom in the Philippines and Telekomunikasi Selular in Indonesia, according to a company report.

Aside from Indonesia, most of Singtel's regional businesses are not very attractive, Mr Duhra said.

"We've been decreasing our telecom exposure across the region," he said. "Singtel's one of the last holdings we addressed, and we just don't feel it's a good place to be right now."

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline 'Henderson Global sells Singtel as competition rises'. Print Edition | Subscribe