Telenor still steady after COVID, coup and change in 2021

The past 12 months have been somewhat mixed for Norway-based Telenor Group, which faced multiple challenges ranging from pandemic-related measures in various markets and the need to exit Myanmar following the army coup in February 2021.

Group president and CEO Sigve Brekke said Telenor had invested its energies in maintaining stability for staff and customers throughout the year, while continuing to modernize its network.

"Structural initiatives have resulted in NOK1.2 billion (US$137 million) in savings during the year," he observed.

Looking ahead: Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke says the group is focusing on a return to profit in 2022. (Source: Orjan Ellingvag/Alamy Stock Photo)
Looking ahead: Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke says the group is focusing on a return to profit in 2022.
(Source: Orjan Ellingvag/Alamy Stock Photo)

The focus for now, Brekke said, is on returning to growth in 2022. For the full year, Telenor expects to see low, single-digit growth in service revenues. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) are anticipated to be flat or slightly higher. The operator also plans to increase the 2021 dividend by 3% to NOK9.3 per share.

Mixed picture

In 2021, overall group revenue fell 4.8% to NOK110 billion ($12.5 billion), although revenue increased 1.2% when adjusted for the pending sale of Telenor Myanmar. Adjusted EBITDA for the year fell to just over NOK49 billion ($5.6 billion) from NOK52.35 billion.

In the October-December period, adjusted EBITDA fell 6.5% year-on-year to NOK11.7 billion ($1.33 billion). Analysts in a poll provided by Telenor had expected NOK12.2 billion on average, however.

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Brekke highlighted the fact that the group's markets in the Nordics performed well in the fourth quarter of the year, but he acknowledged that operations in Asia remained under pressure "due to intense competition and impact from the pandemic, in particular in Thailand."

The operator remains preoccupied with its plan to exit Myanmar, although this does now seem to be back on track. Lebanon's M1 Group will reportedly partner with a local Myanmar firm to acquire Telenor Myanmar, fulfilling a condition set by the military junta.

A further major challenge this year will be to complete the planned merger of Thailand-based unit Dtac with True, owned by Thailand's Charoen Pokphand Group. Telenor said the process is progressing according to plan.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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