SingTel earmarks $2b for acquisitions, mio TV expansion

SingTel earmarks $2b for acquisitions, mio TV expansion

SINGTEL will allocate $2 billion over the next three years to expand its digital life business, it announced yesterday.

One of its plans is to bring its mio TV business into regional markets through associates such as Thailand's AIS, Globe Telecom in the Philippines and the Indonesian telco Telkomsel.

SingTel chief executive Chua Sock Koong told The Straits Times yesterday: "We're looking at a regional video strategy; how a video product would help to strengthen the core business.

"Our associates would have the appropriate (pay-TV) licences and, if necessary, they would go and get the licences."

SingTel hopes to ride on the opportunities that may arise from premium pay-TV services switching from analogue to digital transmission platforms across the region.

The three-year investment plan will also centre on acquisitions, particularly start-ups in the digital advertising, e-commerce, social interaction, lifestyle and pay-TV sectors.

The move is in line with SingTel's long-term goal to transform itself into an Internet services provider like Google.

"Time to market is critical so buying a company always gives you the time advantage," said Ms Chua. Last year, SingTel spent US$400 million (S$496 million) investing in start-ups, including American-based advertising firm Amobee, American photo app firm Pixable and Singapore food website HungryGoWhere.

The investment strategy was announced at SingTel's financial results briefing yesterday.

Fourth-quarter net profit tumbled 33 per cent to $868 million in the three months to March 31, from $1.29 billion a year ago, due to a one-off loss from the sale of its stake in telco Warid in Pakistan.The $225 million divestment loss from Warid was partly offset by $149 million of net dividend income from its Australian joint venture Southern Cross, which builds undersea telecommunications infrastructure.

Revenue was down 6.3 per cent at $4.48 billion for the quarter due to lower revenues in Australia because of mandatory mobile termination rate cuts and a restructuring exercise at its Optus unit.

SingTel gained 51,000 mobile customers in Singapore during the quarter, bringing its total base to 3.81 million.

It also added 6,000 mio TV customers, largely contributed by bundling pay-TV with mobile and broadband access services. Its total mio TV subscriber base was 404,000 as of March 31.

Net profit for the full year was down 12 per cent at $3.51 billion while revenue slid 3.4 per cent to $18.18 billion.

Despite the weaker results, SingTel will pay a final dividend of 10 cents a share, up from nine cents the year before.

The telco said it expects consolidated revenue to be stable this financial year.

Earnings per share for the fourth quarter fell to 5.45 cents from 8.09 cents a year earlier while net asset value per share was 150.42 cents as of March 31, compared with 147.08 cents last year. SingTel shares closed unchanged at $3.99 yesterday.

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