By Joyce Hooi
SINGAPORE - Telecommunications (SingTel) will continue making acquisitions in the digital market and continue looking for new data pricing models, it said in its latest annual report for the financial year ended March 31, 2012.
This follows SingTel's mammoth purchase of mobile advertising firm Amobee for US$321 million in March, which SingTel's group CEO Chua Sock Koong made reference to in her statement in the annual report.
"We will be making similar moves in other exciting digital spaces as we continue to enhance and leverage the assets of our core carrier business," she said.
The Amobee purchase had been followed in quick succession by a buyout of 3D mobile ad firm AdJitsu through Amobee and a $12 million acquisition of restaurant review website HungryGoWhere.
Even as SingTel embraces the digital, it will likely spend an equal amount of time dealing with the toll that the digital explosion is taking on bandwidth.
"Revenue for mobile data services significantly lags the growth in data usage as well as related costs . . . To fund future network investments, it is critical for us to ensure that our revenue from data services keeps pace with the cost of provision," Ms Chua said.
"We, along with other carriers around the world, are actively seeking new pricing models to achieve this objective without causing unnecessary pain to customers."
From next month, SingTel's mobile plans will do away with a 12-gigabyte (GB) data cap across the board. Instead, tiered pricing and data allowances will be introduced.
"In Singapore, we are taking steps to shape customers' behaviour," Ms Chua added.
The telco will also make "significant investments" in its networks, from buying more spectrum to using more efficient data-handling technologies, she said.
The annual report shows Ms Chua making her debut on SingTel's top 20 shareholders' list at number 19, with about 3.7 million shares, a stake of 0.02 per cent.
In a separate announcement yesterday, SingTel said that it had awarded Ms Chua up to about 1.39 million shares under the SingTel Performance Share Plan, subject to certain conditions being met.
On the remuneration front, the annual report shows that Ms Chua's total compensation rose to about $4.89 million, from $4.51 million the year before.
Allen Lew, CEO Group Digital Life, led the rest of the pack, with his total remuneration rising from $3.2 million to $3.39 million; while Group CFO Jeann Low's total package stood at $2.09 million, up from $1.71 million.
Ms Low's pay package included "tax equalisation" related to her previous secondment to Optus.
Paul O'Sullivan, CEO Group Consumer, saw his pay cheque shrink, from A$3.04 million in the previous year to A$2.54 million (S$3.26 million).
The latest annual report is the first one to be released since the telco reshuffled its group structure, dividing itself into the consumer, digital and enterprise IT divisions.
Most of its digital division's growth will come from a mix of acquisitions a la Amobee and in-house development of apps, as it uses its existing relationship with subscribers to its advantage.
"We are able to boost usage of our content and apps by pre-installing them onto customers' devices . . . This gives us an invaluable advantage over other content providers," the group said in the annual report.
Even as SingTel regroups, competition between telcos and Internet giants such as Google, Apple and Amazon will intensify.
"Our competition has expanded beyond traditional telecommunications companies to also include players in the digital space," Ms Chua said.
This article was first published in The Business Times.