SingTel says first quarter net profit up 3.2%

Singapore Telecom (SingTel) said on Tuesday its first quarter net profit rose 3.2 percent from a year ago, driven by improved earnings from some regional associates and gains from an asset sale.

Net profit in the three months to June was Sg$945 million ($759 million), up from Sg$916 million in the same period last year and higher than the Sg$919 million forecast by a Dow Jones Newswires poll of analysts.

Revenue totalled Sg$4.53 billion, down 1.6 percent from a year earlier, SingTel said in a statement.

Pre-tax profit from the firm's overseas associates climbed 2.4 percent to Sg$483 million, buoyed by strong earnings growth from Indonesia's Telkomsel and Thailand's AIS.

The gains however were eroded by the Singapore dollar's strength against weaker regional currencies, said SingTel, Southeast Asia's biggest telecom firm by revenue.

As part of its expansion beyond the small domestic market, SingTel also holds significant stakes in India's Bharti Airtel, Pakistan's Warid Telecom, Globe Telecom in the Philippines and Pacific Bangladesh Telecom.

Optus, SingTel's wholly owned Australian subsidiary, reported a 7.4 percent decline in underlying net profit to Aus$161 million, with operating revenue dropping 3.2 percent to Aus$2.24 billion also partly due to the weaker Australian dollar.

SingTel said it booked a one-time gain of Sg$119 million from the sale of its 3.98 percent stake in Taiwan's Far EasTone Telecommunications.

"The group delivered a resilient performance this quarter despite regional currency headwinds and operating challenges in India," said SingTel Group chief executive Chua Sock Koong.

"This reflected the strength of diversity of the group's operations. We are embracing the changes in our industry by strengthening our telco business and establishing new growth platforms in the digital space."

Bharti Airtel's pre-tax contribution to SingTel's overall profit fell 38 percent, partly due to a weaker Indian rupee, while that of Warid Telecom tumbled 49 percent.

Pre-tax profit contributions from Telkomsel, AIS and Globe Telecom however were up.

SingTel said its mobile customer base totalled 462 million as at June 30, up 11 percent from a year ago.

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