About this weblog

What you need to know: This weblog captures key data points about the global telecoms industry. I use it as an electronic notebook to support my work for Pringle Media.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Online Payments and Advertising Drive Tencent Forward

Tencent reported a 32% increase in revenues to 313 billion yuan for 2018 (45.6 billion US dollars). However, in the fourth quarter revenue growth slowed to 28%.

Revenues from its VAS business (online gaming and social networks) increased by 9% in the fourth quarter of 2018, as online games revenues were flat at 24.2 billion yuan. However, social networks revenues grew by 25% to 19.5 billion yuan, lifted by growth in revenues from digital content services, such as live broadcast services and video streaming subscriptions. Tencent said its total digital content subscriptions exceeded 100 million at the end of 2018, up 50% year-on-year.

Revenues from the online advertising business increased by 38% to 17 billion yuan for the fourth quarter. That rise was driven by a 44% rise in "social and others advertising" revenues to 11.8 billion yuan, thanks to Weixin Moments, Mini Programs and QQ KanDian.  Tencent increased its advertising inventory by adding a second ad unit in Weixin Moments, and started to insert ad units into Mini Programs, which run within the WeChat/Weixin messaging service. The Mini Programs now cover more than 200 service sectors. Media advertising revenues grew by 26% to 5.2 billion yuan, fuelled by contributions from Tencent Video and Tencent News.

Revenues from other businesses, such as digital payments, cloud services and TV production, increased by 72% to 24.2 billion yuan for the fourth quarter. Tencent reported that its payment platforms supported more than one billion transactions a day in 2018, driven by rapid growth in commercial payments, which accounted for more than half the transactions. Source: Tencent statement

Large Scale IoT Lifts China Mobile

China Mobile reported a 1.8% rise in revenues for 2018 to 737 billion Chinese yuan (110 billion US dollars) on a like-for-like basis. Service revenue rose 3.7% on a like-for-like basis, and 0.4% on a reported basis. Intriguingly, China Mobile even reported a rise in SMS/MMS revenue (see chart above).

IoT revenue climbed 40% to 7.53 billion yuan (1.12 billion dollars), as China Mobile said it is now  serving 551 million "smart IoT" connections up from from 229 million at the end of 2017. That suggests an average annual revenue per IoT connection of about 3 dollars. China Mobile is aiming to add a further 300 million net IoT connections in 2019, as it seeks to become the first operator serving two billion connections in total. However, it is planning another cut in capex in 2019 (see chart below). Source: China Mobile presentation

Thursday, March 21, 2019

How Cash-strapped are Europe's Top Telcos?

Cash flow will play a big part in determining how fast Europe's debt-laden telcos roll out 5G. The chart above aggregates the net cash flow generated by the operations of Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Telefónica, Orange and Telecom Italia, and their capital spending, over the course of this decade. Despite an upswing in recent years, it shows how their operations are still not generating as much cash as they were in 2010. The chart also flags how the big five telcos' capex has slid downwards since 2015.

Worryingly, the upward trend in cash flow came to an abrupt halt in 2018 as competition and economic uncertainty kept a lid on pricing power. Only Deutsche Telekom, boosted by revenue growth in the U.S. and cost cutting, generated significantly more net cash from its operating activities in 2017 and 2018 than in previous years. Since 2010, the Bonn-based group has seen cash generation rise by 22%.

At the other end of the spectrum, Orange has seen a 24% decline in the cash generated by its operations since 2010. The Paris-based telco has had to cut prices in response to aggressive tactics by new entrants in its home market. In 2018, this metric declined again as Orange made large payments to French employees impacted by restructuring, but the group has forecast growth in operating cash flow for 2019.

Pringle Media has just published a report tracking and comparing the key financial metrics of these five major telcos over the past nine years. 

The Kindle version of the report is available here and the iPad version is here.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Europe's Top Telcos Fail To Cover Cost of Capital

In 2018, Europe's big five telcos saw their return on capital employed (ROCE) under renewed pressure as profits were hit by write downs and intensifying competition. While Telefónica, Orange and Deutsche Telekom made a return of 7%-8% (before tax), the weighted cost of capital for European telcos is 8%-9% (according to consultancy PwC).

For Telecom Italia and Vodafone, ROCE nose-dived towards zero in 2018, as both companies wrote down the value of various assets.

In 2018, the average ROCE among the big five telcos was 5%, about half of what it was in 2010.

The weak ROCE performance achieved by the big five makes it tough to justify the increases in capex required to fund a timely deployment of 5G and fibre across Europe. With cash flow under renewed pressure, telcos realistically need to keep capex below 15% of sales, which would mean a sedate deployment of 5G, focused on hotspots.

Pringle Media has just published a report tracking and comparing the key financial metrics of these five major telcos over the past nine years. 

The Kindle version of the report is available here and the iPad version is here.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

MTN Delivers Double Digit Growth

MTN reported a 10.2% increase in revenue for 2018 at constant exchange rates to 134 billion South African rand (9.3 billion US dollars). In Nigeria, service revenue leapt 17%, fuelled by strong demand for both voice and data services.

Group revenues from digital services, such as music, fell 33% to 3.9 billion rand "as a result of the ongoing value-added-services optimisation", while fintech revenues climbed 47% to 7.8 billion rand. Group capex fell to 19.3% of revenues, from 24% in 2017, as MTN benefitted from the deployment of low frequency spectrum offering broad coverage. MTN expects service revenues, including those from digital services, to grow at double digit rates in the medium-term. Source: MTN statements

Friday, February 22, 2019

Telefónica Claims Remarkable Operating Momentum

Telefónica reported a 3% year-on-year growth in revenues on an organic basis for the fourth quarter of 2018 to 12.9 billion euros. The Madrid-based group forecast that revenues will grow about 2% on an organic basis in 2019 (compared with 2.4% in 2018).

José María Álvarez-Pallete, CEO, said: " In 2018, we regained customer relevance, resulting in the best-ever figure of customer satisfaction. We continued increasing the weight of high-growing revenues (broadband connectivity and services beyond connectivity) and investing in state-of-the-art technology networks. ...This performance, together with the remarkable operating momentum in the initial months of 2019, allow us to announce with confidence our 2019 targets of continue growing in revenues and OIBDA, as we keep the capex/sales ratio stable.”

Telefónica said digital services generated 6.79 billion euros in revenue in 2018 (up 24% year-on-year). Within that, video revenues totalled 2.88 billion euros (up 0.5%), while cloud generated 627 million euros (24.2%), IoT 376 million euros (31%) and security 433 million euros (41.7%).  The group's "Contents" revenue was up 86% to 1.83 billion euros, reflecting rising demand for its over-the-top (OTT) content propositions. Source: Telefónica statement

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Deutsche Telekom Predicts Slight Growth in 2019

Deutsche Telekom reported a 3.1% year-on-year rise in revenues on an organic basis to 75.7 billion euros for 2018. It expects a "slight increase" in group revenues in 2019, followed by an "increase" in 2020. Once again, T-Mobile US is the primary growth engine. In 2018, T-Mobile US saw its revenues grow 6.8% to 43.1 billion U.S. dollars. source: Deutsche Telekom statement

Africa and Middle East Bolster Orange

Orange reported a 1.4% year-on-year increase in revenues on a comparable basis for the fourth quarter of 2018 to 10.81 billion euros, up from 0.6% in the third quarter.

For the whole of 2018, revenues rose 1.3% to 41.38 billion euros. Orange said a 5.1% increase in revenues in Africa & Middle East accounted for almost half of the group's growth in 2018, driven by data and mobile financial services. Revenue growth in Spain (up 2.2%), Europe (up 1.7%) and France (up 0.9%) was driven by convergence (a combined mobile and fixed offering).

Orange CEO, Stéphane Richard, said: "Our leadership in terms of connectivity is the foundation of our well-established multi-service strategy. In terms of content, we celebrated 10 years of OCS (Orange Cinéma Séries) which now has nearly 3 million clients. In financial services, Orange Bank has attracted nearly 250,000 clients in France and Orange Money continued its strong growth to reach 14 million active clients." source: Orange statement