SingTel – OCBC

Soft 1Q12 underlying earnings; but still defensive

1Q12 results slightly short. SingTel reported its 1Q12 results this morning, with revenue rising 7.4% YoY (but down 0.8% QoQ) to S$4605.2m, or around 0.7% ahead of our forecast, with both Singapore and Australian businesses recording healthy revenue growth. While operating EBITDA also grew by 2.3% YoY, it fell 7.7% QoQ to S$1284.1m; this as Optus recorded seasonally lower EBITDA across all business segments (including impact of a writeback of outpayment provision in 4Q11). Also lower was the overall operating EBITDA margin, which slipped from 29.3% in 1Q11 to 27.9% in 1Q12; this was mainly due to the 4.7 percentage point (ppt) fall in Optus’ margin, but mitigated by the 3.2 ppt recovery in Singapore. Reported net profit slipped 2.9% YoY and 7.6% QoQ to S$916.2m, but underlying earnings saw a bigger 7.4% YoY and 12.5% QoQ slump to S$873.0m, falling 11.8% short of our estimate; this mainly due to an exceptional item of S$61m.

Softer associates showing due to forex. Associates pretax profits fell 9.2% YoY and 2.7% QoQ to S$500m; negatively impacted by foreign exchange movements. SingTel noted that major regional currencies depreciated between 4.7% and 18.9% YoY or down some 1.7-6.5% QoQ (with the exception of IDR which rose 0.7%). Even in constant FX term, SingTel revealed that associate pre-tax earnings eased by 3.1% YoY; the drag coming mainly from Bharti, which fell 20% YoY in local currency terms, as earnings were impacted by higher interest costs, depreciation and reduction of tax holiday benefits.

Maintains FY12 guidance. Nevertheless, SingTel has retained its guidance for FY12. For Singapore, it expects operating revenue to growth at low single-digit level, driven by higher mobile and mio TV revenue; it also expects operating EBITDA to be stable (achieved 35.2% margin in FY11); capex to be ~S$900m (upgrade mobile data network etc) and free cashflow to come in ~S$1.3b. For Australia, it expects operating revenue and EBITDA to grow at low single-digit levels; it also expects to generate free cashflow of A$1b after spending A$1.2b on capex. On the associates front, SingTel expects ordinary dividends to remain stable (came in ~S$2,141m in FY11).

Maintain BUY. Given that 1Q12 underlying earnings met only 21.6% of our full-year forecast, we reduce our FY12 estimate by 3.6% (FY13 by 3.5%) to incorporate softer margin assumptions for Optus and also lower associate contributions. But because of the higher market value of its associates, our fair value remains unchanged at S$3.64. We also continue to like SingTel for its defensive earnings. Maintain BUY.

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