VEON recovers slightly from terrible Q2, sells Armenia biz

The latest quarterly results presented by VEON can hardly be described as glittering, but at least they show a slight improvement from the telco's coronavirus-blighted performance in the second quarter of the year.

The world's 11th-biggest mobile operator by customers, with 207 million subscribers internationally, was no doubt relieved to report that all of its operations improved year-on-year trends in the quarter to end September 2020.

Revenue still fell, by 10.4% to $1.99 billion, although in local currency the decline was much lower, at 1.3%. However, that was better than the 16% decrease reported for the period from April to June. EBITDA also fell less steeply than in the prior quarter, dropping 9% year-on-year to $898 million. The operator posted a loss of $645 million for the July-September period.

Kaan Terzioğlu and Sergi Herrero, co-CEOs of VEON, said the third quarter saw sequential improvements in the financial performance of the majority of the group's operating companies, "as lockdown restrictions eased in most of our markets."

VEON also revealed that it has agreed to sell its operating subsidiary in Armenia to Team LLC for $51 million. It said the sale is in line with aims to simplify the group's structure and enhance its focus on markets with attractive long-term growth opportunities.

The move means that VEON will be present in nine countries: Algeria, Bangladesh, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Into the red

In the first nine months of the year, revenue fell 9.5% year-on-year to $5.98 billion, while EBITDA was a whopping 19.9% lower at $2.63 billion. The operator also posted a nine-month loss of $350 million, compared to a profit of $635 million a year previously.

The emerging-markets operator that counts Russia as its biggest market also confirmed its guidance for the full year 2020, and anticipates a low to mid-single-digit local currency year-on-year decline in both group revenue and EBITDA, and capex intensity of 22-24%.

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"Our guidance assumes that the gradual lifting of lockdown measures in VEON's operating markets will continue, supporting a steady recovery in operations in the remainder of the financial year," the operator added.

VEON said it was able to increase the number of mobile subscribers by 3 million in Q3, after losing 6 million in the previous quarter. In particular, the number of 4G users grew 8 million on a sequential basis, and now stands at 73 million.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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