Manama, Bahrain:Batelco Group (Ticker: BATELCO), the international Telecommunications Group with operations across 14 countries, today held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) for the twelve-months ended 31 December 2013 ("the year") and additionally an Extra-Ordinary-General Meeting (EGM) in relation to a proposed Bonus Shares issue. The meetings, held at Hamala headquarters, were attended by Shareholders, Company Directors, executive management, management and employees.
The Group's 33rd AGM saw shareholders approve the recommendation of the Board of Directors for a full year cash dividend of BD31.7M (US$84.1M), at a value of 20 fils per share, of which 10 fils per share was already paid during the third quarter of 2013 with the remaining 10 fils to be paid in March 2013. The meeting also saw shareholders pass the Board's recommendation for a 5% bonus share issue, awarding one extra share for every 20 shares currently held by shareholders.
Speaking on the occasion, Batelco Chairman Shaikh Hamad Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa said: "We are pleased to continue to build and return value to our shareholders as demonstrated by the dividend payment, bonus shares and the progress made throughout the past year in achieving growth and diversification of the Group.
"2013 was marked by strong cash generation and growing customer numbers across the Group, mainly attributable to the inclusion of our new Island Portfolio businesses. The total subscriber base has grown to 9 million across the 14 geographies of the expanded operation, representing 18% growth year on year. Diversification has been central to our strategy for a number of years and we are very pleased to see our investments deliver in line with our expectations."
"It is planned to build on the current momentum by pooling of Group resources, technologies and expertise, to further enhance competitiveness and performance in all markets of operation. This includes reinforcing Batelco Bahrain's market position at home, where Batelco retains the position of leading integrated communications provider," Shaikh Hamad added.
Supporting Shaikh Hamad at the meeting, Group CFO Faisal Qamhiyah provided highlights of Batelco's financial and operational performance for 2013.
For 2013, the Group's Gross Revenues stood at BD370.6M (US$983.0M), an increase of 22% year over year. The Group reported Net Profits of BD43.6M (US$115.6M), a decrease of 28% year over year due to a number of one-off expenses including those associated with the CWC Islands Portfolio acquisition. EBITDA for the year was BD120.7M (US$320.2M), representing a healthy margin of 33%. The increase in EBITDA was attributed to the positive impact of Batelco Group's overseas operations and improved performance in the home market.
In line with the Group's continued diversification, 54% of revenues and 50% of EBITDA are now generated from markets outside of Bahrain where the Group continues to focus on strengthening its performance and reach.
The Group ended the year with a strong balance sheet and financial position. As of 31 December 2013, net assets were BD593.1M (US$1,573.2M) with substantial cash and bank balances of BD198.6M (US$526.8M) and net debt of BD44.0M (US$116.7M).
In November 2013 Batelco commenced a buyback of its US$650 million 7 year Reg S bond offering, with BD14.9M (US$39.5M) repurchased as of 31 December 2013. The bond buyback offers Batelco the opportunity to deploy excess liquidity in realizing interest savings and managing debt levels.
The new Board of Directors was appointed and elected at the meeting. The Board includes Chairman Shaikh Hamad bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, Deputy Chairman Mr. Abdul Razak Abdulla Al Qassim, Mr. Abdulrahman Yusif Fakhro, Brigadier Khalid Mohammed Al Mannaei, Mr. Raed A. Fakhri, Mr. Oliver McFall, Dr. Ahmed Ebrahim Mohammed Al Balooshi, Mr. Arif Rahimi, Mrs. Khulood Rashid Al Qattan and Mr. Ahmed A. Al Hujairy.
Chairman Shaikh Hamad thanked the outgoing directors for their dedicated service over many years and welcomed the new directors saying he and his colleagues looked forward to working together with them to support Batelco in attaining its goals.
Before concluding the meeting, Shaikh Hamad also thanked the shareholders for their attendance saying that their ongoing support for Batelco strategies was much appreciated.
"Sincere thanks also to the management teams and employees across the Group for their ongoing efforts.
I particularly want to mention the tremendous efforts of Batelco's Supervisory Committee, who have been assuming the role of the Group CEO since May 2013 and will continue to do so until such time as the new Group CEO is appointed. Their combined contribution is invaluable.
Furthermore, on behalf of all Batelco employees I would like to offer a vote of thanks to our customers. We are very grateful that they continue to choose Batelco products and services in a marketplace that offers such a vast range of choices.
We have entered 2014 in a strong financial position; our growth over 2013 positions us as one of the most important organisations in Bahrain and the Kingdom's largest shareholding company. We remain focussed on our customers at home and overseas to ensure our provisioning exceeds their expectations. Furthermore, we also remain focussed on strengthening our performance to better serve all Batelco Group stakeholders.