SingTel full-year profit falls 5.3 percent

In the face of a newly-deregulated domestic telecommunications market, Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) posted net profit of S$1.85 billion ($US1.07 billion) for its fiscal year ended March 31.

The net profit figure marked a 5.3 percent drop from the previous year, while revenue was 0.4 percent lower at S$4.87 billion, the company announced in a statement released earlier this week.

International telephony revenue fell 10.8 percent and mobile phone revenue dropped 3.3 percent, as a result of rate cuts made in the face of competition in its home market, SingTel said in the statement. Internet-related activities showed strong growth, as did the public data and private network sector, SingTel said.

The profit drop would have been steeper without a 26 percent rise in profit contribution from overseas companies in which SingTel has investments.

Belgium's Belgacom SA contributed S$280 million, Thailand's Advanced Info Service PLC made a first-time contribution of S$50 million, and Philippine operator Globe Telecom contributed S$17 million in pre-tax profit. In total, SingTel's overseas investments contributed S$368 million, or 15 percent of the company's pre-tax profit.

SingTel made a number of strategic regional investments during the past year, including the formation of a joint venture with portal company Lycos to develop the Lycos Asia portal brand and a 30-percent investment in Thai Internet service provider PointAsia.Com Co.

However, its two biggest efforts to expand beyond its increasingly competitive home market both ended in failure.

In January, SingTel's bid to merge with Hong Kong-based telecommunications carrier C&W HKT was thwarted by a rival bid from Pacific Century Cyberworks, and as recently as last week, SingTel's offer to bail out Malaysian telecommunications company Time Engineering Bhd. came unstuck.

Looking forward, Lee Hsien Yang, the company's president and chief executive officer, said in the statement that SingTel will continue to focus on new growth areas and international investments, and will also aggressively defend its market share in Singapore.

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