Singtel to exploit tailwinds of digitalisation brought on by Covid-19

The headwinds and challenges brought on by Covid-19 have provided Singtel with tailwinds of digitalisation that the telco intends to exploit to propel it forward, chairman Lee Theng Kiat and chief executive Yuen Kuan Moon said in the company's latest annual report.

In the report published yesterday, Mr Lee and Mr Yuen said the pandemic has "pushed things over the technology tipping point, amplifying trends that are redefining the basis for success for (the telecoms) industry" as the group's business processes moved online in the past 18 months amid lockdowns and physical distancing.

Singtel first announced plans for a strategic reset on May 27, the day it reported a 92.7 per cent decline in second-half net profit to $87.6 million from $1.2 billion in the year-ago period.

The three-pronged strategy will focus on reinvigorating the telco's core business to capture 5G market share; developing new growth engines in information and communications technology (ICT) and digital services; and unlocking the value of its infrastructure assets.

In the company's annual report, Mr Lee and Mr Yuen said Singtel's quest for 5G market share in Singapore and Australia entails innovating products and services to deliver the best possible customer experience, and growing digital businesses in adjacent lifestyle sectors.

The group will focus on growing 5G enterprise, cloud and more holistic technology solutions in Singapore, Australia and the group's regional associates.

Singtel said it is also doubling down on the digitalisation of its operations to drive productivity and make cost improvements.

After identifying NCS as a key growth engine for the group, Singtel is now recasting its ICT subsidiary as a pan-Asian business-to-business digital services provider.

NCS will seek out new business - in telecoms, healthcare, transport, communications, technology, media and financial services - in Singapore, Australia and Greater China.

The group also intends to adopt a multi-local strategy when working with associates to create and port lifestyle products, services, firms or business segments across their regional footprint, to capitalise on Asean's digital economies.

Having previously announced its intention to unlock the value of its infrastructure assets, the group said it is open to forming alliances with "partners with more experience and direct focus on these assets" to increase network utilisation, provide funding for new builds and improve operating efficiencies.

Singtel strategic portfolio CEO Samba Natarajan wrote that the group remains focused on investments in next-generation infrastructure and sustainable tech.

"We will also be focusing more on asset right models for segments that we believe can be operated and better valued as standalone businesses... We will look to capitalise on strong investor interest in digital infrastructure assets as part of the new group strategy to drive monetisation and value crystallisation across the portfolio," he said.

Singtel group chief financial officer Arthur Lang said in the report that adopting an asset right approach across the group to unlock value through capital recycling will strengthen its balance sheet.

He added that this will also enable it to reallocate capital to meet funding requirements and reinvest the proceeds in key growth areas.

Of the partial sale of the towers of its Australian unit Optus in the country, Mr Lang said: "We have received significant interest from strategic and financial investors and expect to close the transaction before the end of this year."

THE BUSINESS TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2021, with the headline 'Singtel to exploit tailwinds of digitalisation brought on by Covid-19'. Subscribe