Swisscom 2018 financials: "Good performance, solid results"
Via Swisscom News
Feb 7, 2019
At CHF 11,714 million, Group revenue was stable at the prior-year level (+0.4%). In its saturated Swiss core business, Swisscom generated revenue of CHF 8,817 million (–2.7%). The CHF 242 million decline in revenue from telecommunications services can be largely attributed to persistent price pressure in various segments and to the downward trend in fixed-line telephony. Business in Italy developed positively – Fastweb reported revenue growth of EUR 160 million (+8.2%).
Consolidated operating income before depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) totalled CHF 4,213 million, 1.9% below that of the previous year. This included exchange rate developments and a number of non-recurring items. In the previous year, Fastweb had received CHF 102 million in income from legal proceedings, while Swisscom’s results had been affected by the formation of provisions for restructuring measures. Furthermore, in the 2018 reporting year, EBITDA was impacted by new requirements governing the revenue recognition of customer contracts (IFRS 15). After adjustment, the decline in Swisscom’s EBITDA was 0.8%. EBITDA excluding non-recurring items fell by 3.9% on the core Swiss market, while that of Fastweb increased by 5.6%. In overall terms, Swisscom generated solid net profit of CHF 1,521 million, which was only slightly below the prior-year level (–3.0%).
The decline in core business was largely offset by ongoing cost-cutting measures. In 2018, Swisscom exceeded its target of cutting its cost base in Switzerland by CHF 100 million each year until 2020. The number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) in the Group declined to 19,845 in the year under review. As at the end of 2018, Swisscom employed 17,147 FTEs in Switzerland, which equates to 541 or 3.1% fewer employees than at the end of 2017. More than half of the headcount reduction could be absorbed through natural fluctuation thanks to prudent planning and active vacancy management. Around 200 jobs were cut through the existing social plan, which offers higher benefits than the Swiss average and factors in the personal situation of each affected employee. In 2018, 88% of the employees who were supported by the social plan found a new job internally or externally before the social plan benefits stopped.
Network infrastructure: 5G is developing at a lightning pace
Once again, Swisscom won a number of prizes for performance, quality and Swiss network coverage in 2018, and it recently took first place in the Ookla speed test and “connect” network test for mobile services. Swisscom has been investing a lot in its technological leadership for years now. Group-wide capital expenditure remains high, accounting for a fifth of revenue (20.5%) and totalling CHF 2,404 million (+1.1%) in 2018. Of this, CHF 1,645 million (–2.0%) was invested in Switzerland.
Broadband expansion proceeding according to plan
As at the end of 2018, Swisscom had connected around 4.2 million homes and businesses to its ultra-fast broadband service (speeds in excess of 50 Mbps). Some 2.9 million homes and offices benefit from connections with bandwidths of more than 100 Mbps. Swisscom intends to make ultra-fast broadband available in every Swiss municipality by the end of 2021, even in remote locations.
Switch to IP – the final sprint
The switch to IP technology is proceeding as planned. By the end of 2018, 99% of residential customer connections had been migrated. The migration of residential and SME mass market business is to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2019. Four major regions of Switzerland were fully migrated to IP by the end of 2018.
Broadband on the mobile network – first 5G applications successfully tested
By the end of 2018, 5G test networks were already in operation in Burgdorf, Lausanne, Geneva, Zurich, Berne, Davos and Lucerne. This makes Swisscom one of the first providers worldwide to have fully standardised 5G networks. Expansion is planned to around 60 selected cities and municipalities by the end of 2019.
As at the end of 2018, the nationwide coverage of Swisscom’s 4G/LTE network was 99%. Coverage improved significantly again in the past quarter. 95% of the Swiss population can already surf at speeds of up to 300 Mbps, over 72% at speeds of up to 500 Mbps, and some 27% at speeds of 700 Mbps.
Mobile communications: increasing use of mobile data and roaming
The number of mobile lines declined by 86,000 or 1.3% to 6.55 million. In a saturated market, the number of postpaid lines grew by 34,000 year-on-year, while the number of prepaid lines fell by 120,000. The use of mobile data services is still increasing. In 2018, 28% more mobile data traffic was transmitted than in the prior-year period. Roaming data volume also increased by 54%. This was due to further price reductions and inclusive services with mobile subscriptions. A large number of customers phone, surf and send SMS messages within Europe without incurring any additional costs.
Enterprise Customers: growth in cloud and outsourcing services
The corporate customer market is fiercely contested and very challenging, with price pressure having increased further and the switch to IP fully under way. Swisscom’s offerings meet customers’ needs, and customer satisfaction is high. This is reflected in the successful business transactions concluded with corporate customers. Demand for cloud, IT outsourcing and security services also continued to develop positively. The number of mobile connections increased further. Results are, however, under pressure given the highly dynamic market environment. Revenue from telecommunication services fell by CHF 69 million or 6.3%, while revenue in solutions business was down by CHF 42 million or 3.9% year-on-year due to lower volumes in the banking sector. At CHF 2,478 million, incoming orders were down 8.0% year-on-year.
Outlook for 2019: EBITDA of over CHF 4.3 billion
For 2019, Swisscom expects net revenue of around CHF 11.4 billion, EBITDA of over CHF 4.3 billion and capital expenditure of around CHF 2.3 billion. The outlook for EBITDA is influenced by a new accounting standard for leasing (IFRS 16). From 2019 onwards, rental and leasing costs in the income statement will not be reported in EBITDA, which will raise this figure by some CHF 200 million. The costs of acquiring mobile frequencies at auction are not included in the capital expenditure forecast. Subject to achieving its targets, Swisscom will propose payment of an unchanged, attractive dividend of CHF 22 per share for the 2019 financial year at the 2020 Annual General Meeting.
The entire industry is being transformed by digitisation. At the same time, Swisscom is increasingly competing with global, Internet-based companies with low costs. As already announced, Swisscom aims to continue to reduce its cost base after 2018, by some CHF 100 million annually in 2019 and 2020. The company aims to continue to realise savings mainly by simplifying work processes, using more reasonably priced systems and reducing the number of vacancies in divisions with declining business. In contrast, new jobs will generally be created in growth areas such as the cloud or security.
Overall, Swisscom expects vacancies in Switzerland to decline slightly in 2019, depending on market development. By means of long-term planning, Swisscom aims to continue to cushion the reduction in headcount through natural fluctuation and retirements as much as possible, or to find alternative solutions. Swisscom pays special attention to employees’ training and education. The collective employment agreement concluded in 2018 addresses this point by allowing every employee five training days. The goal is to maintain and strengthen the employability of Swisscom employees. As in the past, Swisscom is also firmly committed to the training of apprentices and will be making 960 apprenticeships available in 2019.
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