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TL;DR There could be some strong earnings potential from growth in developing countries for Singtel's investments overseas, although the telco market in Singapore is quite lukewarm.
I don’t think Singtel needs much explaining since most of us have used one of their products before and is the largest telecom operator in Singapore.
What you may not know, is that its Australian subsidiary Optus is the second largest operator in Australia. Singtel also has substantial stakes in telcos in the region – Telkomsel in Indonesia, Bharti Airtel (Bharti) in India, AIS in Thailand and Globe in the Philippines.
For FY17/18, revenue was 17,532m with a YOY increase of almost 5%. There was a hug increase in exceptional items due mainly to the gain on disposal of an associate. This suggests that the much higher profit from operating activities of almost 70% is driven by non-core activities like disposal of subsidiaries, and less by operating activities like revenue. Overall profit after tax was 5403m, a 41% YOY increase, but as mentioned, the disposal of the associate should not be treated as a recurring and core activity of Singtel.
Current Ratio for FY17/18 was only 0.72, suggesting that Singtel’s short-term liquidity isn’t strong. Interestingly, much of Singtel’s current assets was made up of receivables, whereas Singtel’s payables is predominantly made up of payables and unsecured borrowings.
Singtel’s leverage (D/E) is 0.35, showing that the Singtel’s capital structure is made up mainly of equity. A L/E of 60%, also reveals Singtel’s greater dependency on equity holdings as compared to liabilities.
Singtel’s cashflow from operating activities was a slight improvement, due to higher profit before tax and stronger working capital management.
For investing activities, there was a large purchase of intangible assets (5X previous FY), comprising mainly of telecommunications and spectrum licenses.
Cashflow from financing activities had a large outflow due to mainly repayment of term loans and special dividends paid out.
Competition in Singapore
The increased competition in Singapore’s telco space has led to intensified efforts by Singtel to maintain it’s foothold and market share. Additionally, the telco space in Singapore is already quite saturated with different competitors and a market size that is unlikely to grow due to slowing population growth and a lack of innovation on mobile offerings.
Weak Enterprise Segment
There have also been a slow order flow from Smart Nation projects, and the hype from this national development may lead to a lower valuation given by investors who had believed that Smart Nation development will improve Singtel’s earnings.
The listing of Airtel Africa in the middle of this year could allow Singtel to monetise its stake there. Also, increases of tariffs in India or a partial exit from its digital businesses could also help to lift earnings this year.
Other than Australia and Singapore, Singtel also operates in Thailand, India, Philippines and Indonesia. These developing countries have a growing middle class that usually demand greater mobile and internet connectivity. This provides potential upside to Singtel in the long run.
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