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    May 16, 2014

    Strong S$ holds back SingTel

    SINGTEL finished its financial year with a profitable fourth quarter, but its performance was hindered by the weakening Australian dollar and regional currencies against the Singapore dollar.

    The telco's consumer business Down Under also saw a drop in sales.

    Net profit increased by 4 per cent year-on-year in the three months ending March to hit $898 million. The gains would have been larger - at 13 per cent - in constant currency terms.

    The quarter's performance was fuelled by strong earnings from its consumer business in Singapore and regional associates, led by India's Bharti Airtel, SingTel reported yesterday.

    Regional mobile associates' pre-tax earnings grew 9 per cent to $558 million, but this would have been 23 per cent if not for the strong Singapore dollar.

    Besides 100 per cent ownership in Australia's Optus, SingTel also has stakes in AIS in Thailand and Telkomsel in Indonesia, among others.

    SingTel Group CEO Chua Sock Koong said: "The group delivered a resilient performance against very adverse currency movements."

    In Singapore, SingTel's consumer operations saw a 5 per cent rise in revenue, on the back of continued growth in mobile and pay-TV services. The number of 4G customers grew by 175,000 quarter-on-quarter, and higher data usage also boosted revenue.

    mio TV revenue also soared 47 per cent.

    However, the group's operating revenue declined 8 per cent, "reflecting lower mobile revenue in Australia", said Ms Chua.

    SingTel said Optus' 4G coverage in Australia reached 75 per cent of the metro population in the quarter. It hopes to leverage on an improved network and the increasing penetration of 4G devices.

    Investment analyst Carey Wong of OCBC Investment Research said: "Everyone is moving towards 4G and, hopefully, SingTel gets the early lead on this.

    "Australia is a very saturated market and they are trying to fight the incumbent, Telstra, and it's going to be tough."