SingTel – BT

SingTel tempers special dividend expectations

Chairman tells shareholders such payouts can’t be annual affair

SINGAPORE Telecommunications yesterday told shareholders not to expect special dividends every year, pointing out that it would not be special then.

Total dividend for financial year 2007/2008 came to 12.5 cents, following a final dividend of 6.9 cents.

Speaking at SingTel’s 16th annual general meeting, chairman Chumpol NaLamlieng said: ‘It is not the policy of the board to pay a special dividend every year, otherwise it won’t be a special dividend.’

Some 350 shareholders turned up at the NTUC auditorium for SingTel’s AGM, easily one of the largest gatherings for listed companies here. The two-hour long meeting saw a number of issues being brought up, including SingTel’s ongoing legal battle in Indonesia, the pending launch of the iPhone and why there was no special dividend paid for the year ended March 31, 2008.

Mr Chumpol pointed out that SingTel had raised its dividend policy ratio to 45-60 per cent of underlying net profit, from 40-50 per cent previously.

‘In the event, if there are special reasons, the board will consider,’ he said. ‘The last few years of special dividends and share buybacks may have led shareholders to conclude it’s a normal affair but it is not.’

Since 2000, shareholder payout has been boosted in six of the nine years by special dividends and capital reductions.

SingTel chief executive Chua Sock Koong added that special events in the past included compensation from the government for ending its monopoly ahead of schedule and divestments such as Belgian associate Belgacom.

In 2004, SingTel returned a bumper $4.1 billion to shareholders, buoyed by $3.3 billion of divestments in SingPost, Yellow Pages and Belgacom.

When one shareholder asked if SingTel could pay higher normal dividends, Mr Chumpol said: ‘If the income goes up from normal operations, then normal dividend will definitely go up.’

SingTel’s total shareholder payout since 2000 is about $22 billion, or 82 per cent of earnings over the same period.

SingTel has moved up several rungs this year to rank as the world’s No 11 telco with a market capitalisation of US$42.8 billion. Last year, with a market capitalisation of US$34.4 billion, it ranked No 19.

Its stock closed down five cents at $3.53 yesterday.

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