TELCOs – Kim Eng
iPhone 5 To Dampen Margins in 2H12
Slower 2H ahead. We are maintaining our SELL calls on SingTel and StarHub as we expect them to be hardest hit by the higher subsidies and longer clawback periods of the iPhone 5 in 2H12. However, M1 is likely to see a more muted impact due to its accounting treatment which brings forward part of future revenue to offset the cost of the subsidy. As such, M1 remains a HOLD, and is our top telco pick in Singapore.
iPhone 5 trumps iPhone 4S. Apple’s iPhone 5 started selling around the world last Friday, including Singapore, and demand is much stronger than the 4S model. Apple has reported that pre-orders for iPhone 5 topped 2m units in 24 hours, more than double the amount of pre-orders it took for the iPhone 4S, reflecting strong pent-up demand for this new model. In Singapore, all the telcos sold out online 90 minutes after opening for booking.
Subsidies rise sharply. Based on the telcos’ iPhone 5 plans, they are stretching their subsidies out over a longer period for iPhone 5 compared to the iPhone 4S. At the sweet spot of the two cheapest plans, which have a minimum contract period of 24 months, the telcos will need almost 1.5 months more to recoup their subsidy cost for the iPhone 5 than the iPhone 4S.
Margin impact likely to be worse than iPhone 4S. EBITDA margins are likely to be affected in 3Q12. Based on past trends, we expect a larger impact (3-4ppt) for SingTel and StarHub, but a more muted impact on M1 (1-2ppt) due to its accounting treatment for iPhones where future revenue is brought forward to cover the cost of subsidies. Based on current reported iPhone sales however, we think our existing forecasts are still in the money.
Hopefully, higher data usage can offset higher subsidy. iPhone 5 is an LTE handset, and the faster LTE speeds should drive up data usage as it would be much easier to consume data, particularly when viewing video and using FaceTime for video chats. We are not assuming a significant rampup in data revenue yet because we think there will be a period of adjustment, where telcos need to improve their app and content offerings, and users need to adjust their consumption patterns.