SingTel – BT

SingTel reports big subscriber gains in Q3

Growth reflects strong take-up of iPhone 3G and other initiatives

An exclusive bite at Apple’s iPhone 3G has helped put Singapore Telecom’s mobile subscriber base in the pink of health, with the operator chalking up the biggest subscriber gains in the third quarter of this year.

SingTel added 45,000 new post-paid mobile customers in Q3, more than twice as many as its two major rivals.

StarHub reported ‘net add’ of 17,000 new post-paid subscribers or users who sign up for a monthly call plan, while MobileOne added 4,000.

‘The growth in the number of post-paid mobile customers is the highest quarterly increase in recent years,’ SingTel said yesterday. ‘This reflected the strong take-up of the iPhone 3G as well as the success of targeted acquisition initiatives.’

SingTel launched Apple’s second-generation touch-screen handset with three dedicated subscription plans on Aug 22. StarHub and M1 were expected to follow suit by the end of this year but confirmed last week this will not happen because Apple is focusing distribution efforts on markets where the phone has yet to debut.

Since the iPhone 3G is only sold with a SingTel plan here, the company’s Q3 mobile statistics show that fewer than 45,000 units were sold a month into its debut. Apple forbids telcos from disclosing iPhone sales figures, but some industry watchers put the local volume around 60,000 so far.

Sales of the iPhone 3G may have lifted SingTel’s subscriber base in the Q3, but the victory was achieved at the expense of short-term profit. This is because the handset is sold with a heavy upfront subsidy which can only be recovered through long-term subscription and solid mobile data usage. SingTel warned last week that its Ebitda – earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation – for local operations will be slashed by about $27 million as a result higher phone subsidies.

In Q3, the company added 76,000 new pre-paid customers on the back of strong demand among foreign workers, taking its total customer gain to 121,000.

On a regional level, SingTel, which reports its Q2 results today, said its combined subscriber base across its eight markets jumped 9.6 per cent sequentially to 216.7 million at end-September.

Indian associate Bharti recorded the biggest improvement, adding 8.1 million customers in Q3. Indonesian unit Telkomsel and Thailand’s AIS added 8.06 million and 810,000 subscribers respectively.

Philippine operator Globe reported a quarterly increase of 1.01 million customers, while Pakistani telco Warid and PBTL in Bangladesh enjoyed double-digit gains.

SingTel shares closed 6.4 per cent lower at $2.35 yesterday.

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