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Tuesday, 09 February 2010 10:43

Optus become more of a mobile company

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SingTel has reported a 4.8 percent rise in operating revenue to $2.30b and 3.6 percent rise in EBITDA to $529 for its Australian subsidiary, Optus, in the three months to 31 December, compared to a year earlier, driven primarily by growth in Optus' mobile business.

CEO Paul O'Sullivan said the result marked five consecutive quarters of double-digit mobile service revenue growth. Mobile service revenue grew 11 percent, while mobile EBITDA rose 5.3 percent or $18 million.

Overall the results continued the trend of making Optus more and more a mobile-dominated business in the quarter, the mobile business contributed 63 percent to total revenue, two percentage points higher than the same quarter last year.

Mobile's contribution to operational EBITDA was up one percent to 68 percent from 67 percent a year ago. Optus said this reflected "the sustained positive effects of acquisition of higher value customers and ARPU improvements."

During the quarter, Optus tightened its churn policy for prepaid customers who remained inactive after various recharge campaigns, and deactivated 272,000 prepaid customers. This resulted in a net decline of 145,000 prepaid customers during the quarter to leave a total of 4.2 million prepaid customers at 31 December 2009.

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Total 3G customers increased by 8.7 percent from a quarter earlier to 3.34 million, including 799,000 wireless broadband customers. Optus says it achieved "a record growth of 164,000 postpaid customers" in the quarter taking its postpaid customer base north of four million.

Blended ARPU was $48 per month; $27 prepaid and $70 postpaid. Blended and postpaid ARPUs were $1 up on a year ago and prepaid $1 down. Total data revenue accounted for 36 percent of service revenue, up two percent from a year ago.

SMS still accounts for the bulk of this, despite the surge in mobile broadband. Non-SMS data accounted for 14 percent of total service revenue, up from 8.7 percent a year earlier. However this includes revenue from premium SMS services.

Optus estimated its share of the mobile market at 32.3 percent a year ago, but has not published any estimates since that date.

In yesterday's announcement of SingTel mobile numbers, Optus attributed growth to "refreshed wireless broadband plans, smartphone plans, unique content and applications and industry-leading 'Timeless' plans."

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It said in the results announcement that "The increased take-up of smartphones and 'Timeless' plans has further increased the penetration of capped plans into the base. A total of 88 percent of new and recontracted postpaid customers chose capped plans this quarter."

Approximately 61 percent of the total Optus postpaid mobile base were on capped plans as at 31 December 2009, two percentage points higher than a quarter ago and up from 51 percent a year ago.

Optus says that mobile coverage will be extended to 98 percent of the population by an unspecified date and that voice coverage will exceed 97 percent by 31 March 2010.

Outside of mobiles the news was not so good. Optus' total business and wholesale revenue declined by 2.9 percent. Opus said growth in satellite and wholesale data had been offset by weaker corporate telecom spending and lower wholesale international voice revenue. EBITDA margin remained stable at 24 percent.

Optus Business ICT and Managed Services revenue grew 3.0 percent from the preceding quarter. Consumer fixed on-net revenue grew by 4.8 percent and EBITDA rose 9.0 percent to $51 million.

The Unbundled Local Loop (ULL) customer base expanded to 486,000 and the total number of on-net fixed customers exceeded one million as at 31 December 2009.


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