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

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

América Móvil Sees Steady Growth

América Móvil reported a 3% year-on-year increase in service revenues for the fourth quarter of 2016, at constant exchange rates.  That was approximately the same rate of growth as in the prior quarter, as the acceleration of service-revenue growth in Colombia, the U.S. and Argentina was offset by a slight deceleration in Brazil and Mexico "stemming from aggressive holiday promotions that included large allotments of data and airtime." Total revenues for the quarter were 262 billion Mexican pesos (13.52 billion US dollars).

América Móvil said its fixed-broadband business in Brazil posted 15.3% revenue growth. claiming that it captured almost 62% of new connections in the "ultra-broadband market." Source: América Móvil statement.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

New YouTube Products Propel Alphabet

Alphabet reported 23% year-on-year growth in revenues at constant currency to 39.3 billion US dollars for the fourth quarter of 2018, boosted by "ongoing strength in mobile search with important contributions from YouTube, cloud and desktop search."

"YouTube Music and YouTube Premium are now available in nearly 30 countries up from five countries at the start of 2018," said Sundar Pichai, Alphabet CEO. "Last month, YouTube TV announced that it has expanded nationwide to cover 98% of U.S households with the rest to follow shortly. YouTube continues to invest in its thriving community of creators and build great features for its nearly 2 billion monthly log in users....The number of YouTube channels with more than 1 million subscribers nearly doubled in the last year, and the number of creators earning five or six figures grew by more than 40% year-over-year." Source: Alphabet statements

Friday, February 1, 2019

Time Warner Boosts AT&T

Excluding the impact of an accounting change, AT&T said revenues rose 17.2% year-on-year to 48.9 billion US dollars in the fourth quarter, primarily due to the Time Warner acquisition. Declines in legacy wireline services, wireless equipment, domestic video and Vrio were more than offset by WarnerMedia and growth in domestic wireless services and Xandr, AT&T said. Xandr, the advertising business, reported a 49% increase in revenues (26% excluding the AppNexus acquisition).

In 2018, capital expenditures totalled 21.3 billion dollars, down from 21.6 billion dollars in 2017. In 2019, AT&T plans to increase capex to 23 billion dollars (including one billion dollars it expects to be reimbursed), as it rolls out 5G.

On a conference call with analysts, Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, said: "Over a three-to-five year time horizon, unequivocally 5G will serve as a broadband, a fixed broadband replacement product... as we look at 5G, will you have enough capacity to have a good broadband product that serves as a streaming service for all of your DIRECTV NOW, your Netflix, etc.? I absolutely am convinced that we will have that capacity, particularly as we turn up millimetre wave spectrum. That's where the capacity and the performance comes from and that's where you'll begin to see a broad - a true replacement opportunity for fixed line broadband." Source: AT&T statement

Sales Growth Set to Slow for Amazon

Amazon said it expects net sales to be between 56 billion and 60 billion US dollars in the current quarter, which would represent year-on-year growth of between 10% and 18%. This guidance anticipates an unfavourable impact of approximately 210 basis points from foreign exchange rates.

In the fourth quarter of 2018, Amazon increased sales by 20% to 72.4 billion dollars. Excluding the impact of currency movements, sales would have risen 21%.  Amazon said tens of millions of customers worldwide started Prime free trials or began paid memberships during the holiday season.

“The number of research scientists working on Alexa has more than doubled in the past year, and the results of the team’s hard work are clear," added Jeff Bezos, Amazon  CEO. "In 2018, we improved Alexa’s ability to understand requests and answer questions by more than 20% through advances in machine learning, we added billions of facts making Alexa more knowledgeable than ever, developers doubled the number of Alexa skills to over 80,000, and customers spoke to Alexa tens of billions more times in 2018 compared  to 2017.” Source: Amazon statement

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Sales Falls For Samsung Electronics

The sales of business units include inter-segment sales.

Samsung Electronics reported a 10% year-on-year fall in revenues for the fourth quarter of 2018 to 59.27 trillion Korean won (53 billion US dollars), driven by declines in its semiconductor and mobile divisions. It blamed the dip in sales in its mobile division on weak smartphone shipments, amid a stagnant marketSource: Samsung statements

Facebook Expects Further Deceleration

Facebook reported a 33% year-on-year increase in revenues on a constant currency basis for the fourth quarter to 16.9 billion US dollars, down from 34% in the third quarter.

For the current quarter, Facebook expects its total revenue growth rate to decelerate by a mid-single digit percentage on a constant currency basis compared to the fourth quarter rate. "We also expect that our revenue growth rates will continue to decelerate sequentially throughout 2019 on a constant currency basis," the company said.

It plans to invest between 18 billion and 20 billion dollars in capital expenditures in 2019, driven primarily by the building of data centres. For 2018, capital expenditure was 13.9 billion dollars.

Separately, Facebook shut down a mobile app that paid users 20 dollars a month for allowing it to collect data on their iPhones, after Apple said the app breached its policies. The app monitored the user's web and phone activity, including how they use other apps, according to a TechCrunch report. Source: Facebook statement

Model 3 Drives Tesla to New Heights

Tesla reported a 134% year-on-year increase in automotive revenue for the fourth quarter of 2018 to 6.32 billion US dollars. The company claimed its Model 3 was the best-selling passenger car in the US in terms of revenue in both the third and fourth quarter. "With nearly 140,000 units sold, Model 3 was also the best-selling premium vehicle (including SUVs) in the US for 2018 – the first time in decades an American carmaker has been able to secure the top spot," Tesla said.

Tesla is expecting to deliver a total of 360,000 to 400,000 vehicles in 2019, representing year-on-year growth of approximately 45% to 65%. By the end of 2019, Tesla is planning to start producing Model 3 vehicles at its Gigafactory Shanghai where it hopes the capital spend per unit of capacity will be less than half of that of the existing Model 3 line in Fremont.  The company said it is aiming for annualised Model 3 output in excess of 500,000 units sometime between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020.

Tesla recently launched “Navigate on Autopilot”, a feature that "allows, on most controlled-access roads such as highways, any Tesla vehicle with Enhanced Autopilot to change lanes, transition from one highway to another, and ultimately exit the highway when approaching the final destination."

Tesla also reported that energy generation and storage revenue in the fourth quarter increased by 25% year-on-year to 371 million dollars, mainly driven by a substantial growth in energy storage deployments. "Energy generation and storage revenue should increase significantly in 2019, mainly due to the storage business," Tesla said. Source: Tesla statement

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Apple Sees Sales Slide Continuing

Infographic: iPhone Weakness Overshadows Plenty of Positives | Statista Source: Statista
Apple forecast revenue for the quarter ending March 31st will fall to between 55 billion and 59 billion dollars from 61.6 billion in the same quarter of 2018. That would represent a year-on-year decline of between 4% and 11% For the quarter ending December 29, it reported a 5% fall in revenues fo 84.3 billion dollars. Revenue from iPhones declined 15% from the prior year, while total revenue from all other products and services grew 19%.

Apple also said that more than half of the 1.8 billion iPhones it has ever sold are still in use, accounting for the bulk of the total 1.4 billion Apple devices in active use, which also include Macs, iPads and Apple Watches. source: Apple statement

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Verizon Reports Modest Growth

Verizon reported a 0.5% increase in total operating revenue to 34.3 billion US dollars for the fourth quarter of 2018,  excluding the impact of the new revenue recognition standard. For the whole of 2018, on a comparable basis, operating revenues grew approximately 2.2% to 130.9 billion dollars. Verizon said the "primary driver of the increase was continued wireless service revenue growth driven by step ups in access and net account growth."

Verizon also said IoT (Internet of Things) fourth-quarter revenues, including its Verizon Connect telematics business, increased approximately 9.5% year over year, excluding the impact of the revenue recognition standard. source: Verizon statement

Friday, January 25, 2019

Stagnant Vodafone Sees Reasons for Optimism

Vodafone reported a decline of 0.8% in group service revenue on an organic basis for the quarter ending December 31st. However, it said, excluding the impact of UK handset financing, organic service revenue would have risen slightly. "Growth in the majority of markets was offset by declines in Italy and in Spain, which were impacted by increased competition," Vodafone said.

Vodafone Business service revenues declined by 0.5% in the quarter, despite a 3.5% growth in fixed-line revenues "due to ongoing market share gains and strong growth in cloud services." But the mobile revenues in the business division were hit by a weaker performance at Vodacom and increased pricing pressure in Europe, particularly in the SoHo segment, as well as a slowdown in the automotive part of its IoT business. However, Vodafone said IoT connectivity revenues continued to grow strongly, with 27% growth in SIM connections to 80.9 million.

Vodafone also reported that its African payments platform M-Pesa (including Safaricom) maintained good momentum, with active customers growing 14% to 37 million, and transaction volumes up 27% in the quarter. Source: Vodafone statement

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Weakness in China and Sluggish iPhone Sales Hit Apple

Apple revised its guidance for the quarter that ended on December 29. It now expects to report revenues of approximately 84 billion US dollars, having projected sales of between 89 billion and 93 billion dollars. Apple posted revenue of 88.3 billion dollars in the equivalent quarter in 2017.

In a letter to investors, CEO Tim Cook said the economic weakness in some emerging markets "turned out to have a significantly greater impact than we had projected," resulting in fewer iPhone upgrades than Apple had anticipated.

"Most of our revenue shortfall to our guidance, and over 100% of our year-over-year worldwide revenue decline, occurred in Greater China across iPhone, Mac and iPad," Cook wrote. "China’s economy began to slow in the second half of 2018."

However, Cook also admitted that, in some developed markets, "iPhone upgrades also were not as strong as we thought they would be. While macroeconomic challenges in some markets were a key contributor to this trend, we believe there are other factors broadly impacting our iPhone performance, including consumers adapting to a world with fewer carrier subsidies, US dollar strength-related price increases, and some customers taking advantage of significantly reduced pricing for iPhone battery replacements."

On a brighter note, Apple said that services generated over 10.8 billion dollars in revenue during the quarter, while sales of wearables grew by almost 50% year-over-year. Source: Apple statement