Global Operators Check In
By Carlo Longino, Thu May 06 15:30:00 GMT 2004

We're not out of the earnings woods yet -- half a dozen operators from around the world report on their first quarter, as well as OS company Symbian.

Let's start in Canada, where Microcell, which operates the Fido mobile network, lost CAD 14.7 million ($10.7 million) in the first quarter, reversing last year's profit. The company said it was hit by the effects of foreign exchange losses, as well as higher customer acquisition costs. The carrier, which has begun marketing its City Fido service as a replacement for home phones, had 1.2 million subscribers at the end of March.

Jumping over to Europe, Spain's biggest carrier, Telefonica, said its first-quarter profit rose 18 percent on increased sales in both its home market and from its Latin American units. ARPU in Spain grew 7 percent to 29.5 euros thanks to new data services.

Telecom Italia Mobile's first-quarter sales were up 12 percent to EUR 2.9 billion, though net earnings stayed flat thanks to higher taxes and overseas losses. TIM got a boost from increased sales in its home market, as well as a jump on non-voice revenues. The strong numbers in Italy drove shares higher for Vodafone, which gets a greater share of its operating profits from its Italian operations than any other country. The world's biggest carrier also saw good results from its French affiliate SFR, which it owns with Vivendi Universal. SFR's sales rose 16 percent to 2.06 billion euros.

Moving to Asia, SingTel tripled its earnings for the fiscal year ending in March. The pan-Asian operator earned SGD 4.49 billion ($2.66 billion) in the year, much of that profit coming from its sales of non-core assets in the year. Optus, SingTel's Australian unit, generated two-thirds of the company's SGD 12 billion revenue, and SingTel's investment in developing mobile markets like Thailand, Indonesia and India continued to pay off.

Globe Telecom in the Philippines, which is 30%-owned by SingTel, posted a 50 percent rise in first-quarter earnings to 3.1 billion pesos ($56 million). Though the company had some strong churn, total subscribers are up nearly 30 percent from last year. Globe has a huge prepay business, and it introduced two new features late last year that allow users to pass on and share airtime credits, boosting prepaid recharges.

Symbian's results also came in, showing 2.4 million phones using its software were shipped in the first quarter, double the number of last year's quarter. The company added three licensees in the quarter -- Taiwan's Arima, Lenovo from China and South Korea's LG. 30 phones from 9 licensees are in the pipes, and the company was particularly pleased with growth in 3G handsets. The company generated GBP 12.9 million in the quarter, up from 9.2 million the previous year, though off from the last three months of 2003.