Singtel CEO Chua Sock Koong's pay nearly halved, telco to monetise some loss-making digital businesses

Singtel group chief executive Chua Sock Koong's salary was nearly halved, after she oversaw what she said was "far from business as usual".
PHOTO: Singtel

SINGAPORE - Singtel is looking at monetising some of its loss-making digital investments, its leadership confirmed in an annual report out on Wednesday (June 26) which also revealed a big pay cut for its chief executive.

Board chairman Simon Israel pointed to cyber-security business Trustwave, as well as digital marketing units Amobee and Videology, which are part of the digital life division.

"Part of our digital transformation involved making calculated investments in new businesses that would thrive in the future economy," said Mr Israel.

"Your board is aware that the value of these investments is not being recognised in our share price and management intends to unlock this value at the appropriate time."

Singtel's cyber-security business chalked up widening losses before interest and tax, to the tune of $102 million for the 12 months to March 31, according to its latest full-year financial results.

Meanwhile, the digital life division was in the red on the whole, while the Amobee advertising arm - including the recently acquired Videology - posted a larger pre-tax loss of $42 million.

But group digital life chief Samba Natarajan said that, "as we continue to build operating momentum, we are turning our upping the game in digital attention towards value realisation" for units such as Amobee and video streaming platform Hooq.

"This could be in the form of additional strategic partners coming on board as stakeholders in the entity, or through an (initial public offering)," said Mr Natarajan.

"We also look to better inform the investment community on the real value of these businesses, as they are quite different from our traditional core businesses and should be valued with metrics appropriate for their respective industries."

He added that, on top of acquisitions and organic growth, Singtel is tapping its venture capital fund, Innov8, to fuel its digital business development by taking stakes in "emerging growth companies... especially those that are filling the gaps left by traditional infrastructure or are disrupting and improving service delivery through their digital solutions".

"These are companies that create value for our customers, particularly in emerging markets," he said. "Given our footprint, we can by extension, help them scale their business and expand in the region."

Meanwhile, Singtel group chief executive Chua Sock Koong's salary was nearly halved, after she oversaw what she said was "far from business as usual".

Ms Chua made $3.5 million in annual salary and bonus, which also includes benefits such as car benefits, medical cover and club membership - down from $6.1 million the year before. The sum does not include performance share and share option expenses.

"Competition intensified across virtually all our markets as operators jostled for market share while advances in technology continued to disrupt the telco industry, putting more pressure on prices and return on investment," Ms Chua noted, calling the operating environment one of "tougher industry and business conditions".

Singtel's underlying net profit for the 12 months, when shorn of one-off events, fell by 21.4 per cent year on year to $2.83 billion.

Singtel opened flat at $3.48 on its cum-dividend date on Wednesday, after the report was out.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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