ICE hails record core profit in Q2 but lockdown still bites
Ice Group, the third mobile operator in Norway, paints a somewhat mixed picture for the second quarter (Q2) of 2021.
On the one hand, the operator was able to report record adjusted EBITDA of 97 million Norwegian crowns (US$11 million), which contrasts with just NOK 2 million ($225,151) a year previously.
On the other hand, Eivind Helgaker, CEO of Ice Group, described sales as "disappointing" owing to coronavirus-related lockdowns.
The group gained 13,000 new subscribers in Q2 — not a bad result given the circumstances, Helgaker said, but with room for improvement. The total number of subscribers stood at 663,000 by the end of June 2021.
"With shopping centers now fully reopened and vaccination rates increasing, we expect that sales will normalize in the second half of the year," he said. Ice has also left unchanged its guidance for 2021 as a whole.
"We have now delivered 25 consecutive quarters of smartphone subscription growth and remain confident that we will continue to win market share and improve margins strongly going forward," the CEO added.
Total operating revenue in the quarter was NOK 562 million ($63.5 million), a 13% increase from the previous year. Smartphone service revenue was up 14% at NOK 434 million ($49 million). The net loss amounted to NOK 194 million ($22 million).
Helgaker also said the new national roaming agreement with Telia that took effect from January 1 is "playing a vital role" and helping to lower costs.
Looking ahead, Helgaker said the ongoing construction of the operator's own mobile network, as well the offer for the first time of value-added services, are key factors for future growth.
The group added 81 new basestations in the second quarter, bringing the total to 3,071. "This run-rate is in line with Ice Group's guidance of adding between 300 and 500 base stations in 2021," Helgaker said.
Ice has previously indicated that it is rolling out 5G-ready equipment from Nokia.
The group is also dipping its toes into new content and service offerings with the intention of improving customer loyalty, sales and average revenue per user (ARPU).
In June, Ice announced a summer campaign together with streaming service Strim, offering free streaming and unlimited data throughout the summer. It also launched a family package with inclusive insurance for ID theft and secure e-commerce.
"These products are the first steps into value-added services for Ice," Helgaker said. He noted that more products will be added over time, although without providing any details.
Meanwhile, Ice Group is gaining a new chief financial officer: Ola Beinnes Fosse is to succeed current interim CFO Per Heyeraas by no later than September 1, 2021.
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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading