Batelco Group (Ticker: BATELCO), the regional telecommunications operator of reference with operations across seven countries, today announced its results for the twelve-months ended 31 December 2011 ("the year"), which were marked by sound financial results and operating performance across its markets of operation in the MENA region and India.
Financial and Subscriber Highlights
For the full year 2011, the Group reported Net Profits of BD80.M (US$212.2M) versus BD86.8.M (US$230.2M) for 2010, representing a decline of 8%. EBITDA for the year was BD126.0M (US$334.2M), representing a 39% margin, versus EBITDA of BD146.2M (US$387.8M) for 2010. The Group's Gross Revenues stood at BD327.0M (US$ 867.4M) for the year, down 4% from BD340.3M (US$902.7M) in the previous year. In line with the Group's continued diversification, 37% of revenues and 30% of Operating Profit are now generated from markets outside of Bahrain where the Group continues to focus on building its presence and strengthening the performance of its operations.
The Group ended the year with a strong balance sheet. As of 31 December 2011 Batelco Group was free of debt and had significant cash and bank balances of BD107.9M (US$286.2M) an increase of 24% year on year.
The Group also reported that the Board of Directors would recommend a full year cash dividend of BD57.6M (US$152.8M) to the General Assembly of Shareholders, which represents a 72% payout at a value of 40 fils per share of which 20 fils per share was already paid during the third quarter of the year.
Supporting the Group's sound financial results was continued growth of its subscriber base. At year end 2011, the Group reported a record 11 million customers, an increase of 20% year on year, underscoring the success of ongoing efforts to add scale to its operations and maximise performance across its regional network.
Batelco Group Chairman, Shaikh Hamad Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, announcing the 2011 financial results following a meeting of the Board of Directors at the Group's Bahrain Headquarters, said:
"Throughout 2011 Batelco Group successfully managed its operations balancing our performance in mature markets such as Bahrain, where we have effectively maintained market leadership despite strong competitive pressures, with opportunities to pursue and achieve further growth across our regional markets of operation. Whilst our financial results showed expected declines for the year in line with market guidance, we are nevertheless pleased to have ended the year on a strong note with the fourth quarter accounting for the highest EBITDA reported in 2011. We are also proud of our ongoing ability to deliver value to shareholders. In recommending to the General Assembly a substantial dividend of BD57.6M (US$152.8M) for the full year, equivalent to 40 fils per share, we see the Group continue to top the ranks of regional telecommunications companies in terms of dividend yields and comparative shareholder returns. Operationally, we are also pleased with our ongoing ability to make progress in building scale, a cornerstone of our growth strategy. In 2011, we successfully expanded our customer base by 20%, bringing our subscriber numbers to a record 11 million users. We will continue to focus on executing the strategy we outlined to our shareholders during last year's AGM, investing in both strengthening our existing network and further expanding our operations and subscriber base for the benefit of customers and shareholders alike."
"Our strategic imperatives are supported by the Group's solid financial position, which we have maintained through strong cash flow generation in 2011, exceeding guidance, and strengthening our balance sheet. Further growth will also be supported by the Group's Investment Grade Credit Ratings received during the fourth quarter of the year from leading global credit ratings agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor's Ratings Services. These were the first public credit ratings issued to the Group and affirm our strong operating and financial results and prospects as well as the Group's overall positive credit quality."
Commenting on the Group's operational performance across the network, Group CEO, Shaikh Mohamed Bin Isa Al Khalifa, noted the continued focus on market leadership at home and abroad.
"While 2011 was a challenging year for the MENA markets and, in particular, a number of countries in which the Group is active, we are pleased to have effectively executed our strategy and made progress in growing our network and customer base. In Bahrain, despite intense competition, we worked diligently to remain the leading telecommunications provider in the Kingdom across the full spectrum of services whilst also working hard to drive performance in our overseas operations and key operating segments where we see significant potential. "
A Year of Strong Growth in Mobile and Broadband
The year saw strong growth in the Group's mobile and broadband customer base, two segments which figure prominently in its growth strategy. By year-end 2011, the Group had successfully grown its total mobile customer base by 21% whilst broadband subscriber figures across the network increased by 8%. The Group continues to focus efforts on further bolstering growth in these segments through innovation, excellence and added value both in Bahrain where it remains the market leader in mobile and broadband and across its subsidiaries where it is witnessing solid growth and continues to see room for even higher levels of penetration.
Further Diversification and Growing Overseas Operations
In 2011, the Group saw the further growth and diversification of its operations geographically, which remains a critical part of its strategy and ability to deliver sound financial results. By year end 2011, the Group reported growth in its overseas operations both in terms of customer numbers as well as levels of contribution to revenues and the bottom line. For the year, 37% of revenues and 30% of operating profit were sourced from markets outside Bahrain. Year on year, this accounts for a 6% and 9% increase in revenues and operating profits, respectively, from operations in Jordan and Kuwait, where growth helped to partially offset some of the effects of intense competition in Bahrain.
Jordan:The Group's 96% owned subsidiary in Jordan, Umniah, delivered growth of 8% in its mobile subscriber base for the year, which now stands at some 2.3 million customers and further consolidates its strong position in the market. In the year ahead, the Group anticipates even stronger mobile customer growth at Umniah with the company planning to launch its 3G network within the next 6 months.
Overall, the significant investments made by the Group in Umniah this year serve to underscore its commitment to the Jordanian market and opportunities there. This included decisions taken in 2011 to invest JD50.0 M (US$70.0M) for the purchase of the 3G licence, which was paid in early Q1 2012.
Kuwait:Batelco's subsidiary Qualitynet, which delivers total ICT solutions, remains the market leader in Kuwait's Data Communications and Internet Services industry. In 2011, it continued to deliver steady growth registering a 4% increase in its broadband customer numbers, which now stand at more than 40,000.
Other JVs:Solid customer and revenue growth was also delivered by Sabafon, STel and Atheeb, companies in which Batelco owns minority stakes. Sabafon (Yemen) registered 12% growth in its mobile customer base for 2011, which now stands at more than 4 million. STel's (India) mobile customer base grew by 53% for the year reaching 3.5 million customers and Atheeb (Saudi Arabia), which now delivers voice and data services to approximately 114,000 customers, reported a 10% increase in its consumer subscribers for 2011. Further strengthening of Atheeb's operations and performance is also expected in 2012. The company is currently in the process of completing a SR 1.2 billion capital increase, which will support plans for future growth and a new strategic focus on the business customer segment.
Innovation and Excellence Support Market Leadership in Bahrain
In 2011, Batelco retained its market leading position in Bahrain across the full spectrum of telecommunications services. In spite of a 4% decline in its mobile customer base for the year, an expected result of aggressive competition, the dynamics of an already highly penetrated market and the first full year of operations for the third mobile operator, the Group still maintained a strong approximate 44% share of the mobile market including retention of the higher value post-paid individual and business subscribers.
And while Batelco only reported a nominal 1% increase in its broadband customer base for 2011, importantly, it registered more than 50% growth in its wireless broadband subscriber numbers, a cornerstone of its strategy in this segment. In terms of fixed line customers, in line with global market trends and expected losses, subscriber numbers in this segment declined by 8% for 2011 as more customers continue to migrate to mobile services.
"While market conditions in Bahrain have been challenging over the past year and our results impacted by the significant competitive pressures that continue to define the Kingdom's telecommunications industry, we are pleased with our ability to maintain our market leadership in mobile and broadband and to retain the high value customers we have focused on keeping loyal to the Batelco brand though the ongoing introduction of new and exciting value added products and services that have been brought to market in 2011," said Shaikh Mohamed.
Throughout the year, Batelco continued to innovate in order to deliver value for customers across the full spectrum of services. New initiatives were introduced for the prepaid customer segment where Batelco was the first to introduce prepaid Blackberry packages and branded phones that are capable of delivering advanced in-demand features. Another significant milestone that positively impacted all mobile customers during the year was continued efforts to provide best prices and connectivity for customers whether they are at home or abroad. In 2011, Batelco signed its 1000th International Roaming Agreement ensuring a wide range of choices for Batelco's customers while they use their mobile devices overseas.
Similarly, innovations also continued in broadband, where Batelco aims to ensure that Bahrain residents and businesses are the best connected in the region. During the year, the company offered enhanced service and packages with higher speeds and higher usage thresholds at no additional price increase. It has also successfully tested 100Mbps fixed broadband speeds as part of the roll out of its Fiber Network, which it intends to make available to residents in fiber covered areas in 2012. Batelco also continued to develop complementary broadband services throughout the year such as CCTV and IPTV, among others.
"Our success in maintaining market leadership is wholly routed in initiatives such as these and our ongoing drive to remain competitive. This applies to our approach to the quality and level of choice, price and service we deliver day in and day out to customers as well as our continuous efforts to strengthen and streamline the way we operate our business and manage our costs both on a Group level as well as across each of our individual operations with Bahrain being our largest and most significant," Shaikh Mohamed added.
Batelco and its Commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility
The growth and success of the Group is also inextricably linked with the growth, success and wellbeing of the local communities in which it operates. Nowhere is this more true than in the Kingdom of Bahrain, where for the past 30 years, Batelco has become a strong and active member of the community providing ongoing support for initiatives ranging from social causes to projects focused on enhancing levels of education, training and overall development . In 2011, Batelco paid out more than BD2.1 million in financial support to such initiatives. Importantly, the company also put to use the skills, resources and competencies of its staff to support and encourage entrepreneurs from the Kingdom and help them to foster growth of new businesses during Bahrain's Startup Weekend, organised by Batelco. Batelco will continue to work with all segments of the community to support development in line with its Corporate Social Responsibly policies and its position as one of the Kingdom's largest employers, investors and contributors to the national economy and its growth.
Focus on Investing for Further Diversification and Growth
In conclusion, Batelco Group CEO Shaikh Mohamed commented that the Group was firmly focused on effectively deploying its resources so as to further diversify, grow and build value across its operations both in the Kingdom of Bahrain and across overseas growth markets in 2012. This includes those markets in which the Group is currently active as well as others where significant opportunities may exist.
"We continue to look for ways to build scale across our operations and achieve profitable growth. As we go forward in 2012, we will continue to evaluate opportunities to enhance our position in the mobile and broadband markets and achieve greater synergies for the benefit of our customers and shareholders. With the right strategy and management team and having ended the year in a strong financial position, we are confident we are well placed to make further gains and progress and build our market leadership in the year ahead."Back