Batelco Group (Ticker: BATELCO), the regional telecommunications operator of reference with operations across seven countries, today concluded the Annual General Meeting for the twelve-months ended 31 December 2011 (“the year”), where shareholders approved a full year cash dividend of BD57.6M (US$152.8M), which represents a 72% payout at a value of 40 fils per share. The Group already paid 20 fils per share during the third quarter of 2011 with the payment of the remaining 20 fils per share expected on 6 March 2012.
The Group’s 31st AGM, which was held at its Hamala headquarters, was attend by shareholders, company directors, senior management, staff and members of the press, and was presided over by the Chairman of the Board, Shaikh Hamad bin Abdulla Al Khalifa and Group CEO, Shaikh Mohamed bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Commenting from the AGM, Shaikh Hamad Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, Group Chairman, said: “2011 marked another year of solid financial and operating performance for Batelco.
Throughout the year we successfully executed our strategy and delivered results in line with the guidance and expectations set for our shareholders early in 2011. We are especially pleased, however, that our solid financial performance enabled us once again to deliver a substantial dividend to our shareholders, totalling BD57.6M (US$152.8M), as recommended by the Board of Directors and approved by our shareholders here today. This represents a 72% payout and continues to see the Group rank among the top regional telecommunications companies in terms of dividend yields and comparative shareholder returns. ”
As announced earlier in the month, for the full year 2011, the Group reported Net Profits of BD80.M (US$212.2M) versus BD86.8.M (US$230.2M) for 2010, representing a decline of 8%. EBITDA for the year was BD126.0M (US$334.2M), representing a 39% margin, versus EBITDA of BD146.2M (US$387.8M) for 2010. The Group’s Gross Revenues stood at BD327.0M (US$ 867.4M) for the year, down 4% from BD340.3M (US$902.7M) in the previous year.
Further commenting on the Group’s financial results, Shaikh Hamad, said: “We were also pleased with the strength of our balance sheet at year end. As of 31 December 2011, Batelco Group was free of debt and had significant cash and bank balances of BD107.9M (US$286.2M) an increase of 24% year on year. Our ability to continue to pay substantial dividends and even further grow our cash and bank balances is the result of the effective management of our operations and strong cash flow generation, which in 2011 exceeded the guidance we had provided earlier in the year. The overall financial and operational health of the Group was also underscored in 2011 by our having received Investment Grade Credit Ratings during the fourth quarter from Fitch and Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, two of the world’s leading credit ratings agencies. These were the first public credit ratings issued to the Group, which further enhance our position and ability to pursue even greater profitable growth in the years ahead.”
Ongoing Growth of the Network & Overseas Operations
Adding further colour to the Group’s results in 2011, Shaikh Mohamed bin Isa Al Khalifa, Group CEO, presented highlights of the Group’s financial and operating performance for the year to the General Assembly, emphasizing the Group’s success in effectively balancing efforts to maintain market leadership at home whilst building its operations and scale in key growth markets overseas.
Shaikh Mohamed said: “Operationally we are proud of the performance of the Group companies across the MENA region and India during 2011. In line with a key pillar of our growth strategy, we continued to add scale to our operations growing our subscriber base by 20% for the year to a record 11 million customers. We are especially pleased with this result in light of challenging market conditions which impacted the entire MENA region during 2011 and in particular a number of key markets of operation for the Group. With a continued focus on remaining innovative and competitive we maintained market leadership in Bahrain whilst also achieving growth in overseas markets where we have invested and from which we are now deriving even great gains and value.”
Additional key operation highlights for 2011 included growth of the total Group mobile customer base by 21% whilst broadband subscriber figures across the network increased by 8%. 2011 also saw the Group achieve record contributions from overseas operations resulting from ongoing effective diversification of its operations geographically. For the year, 37% of revenues and 30% of operating profit were sourced from markets outside Bahrain. Year on year, this accounted for a 6% and 9% increase in revenues and operating profits, respectively, from operations at the Group’s 96% owned subsidiary Umniah in Jordan and Qualitynet in Kuwait, where growth helped to partially offset some of the effects of intense competition in Bahrain. Further growth and progress was also seen in other Group joint ventures during 2011 with solid customer and revenue growth similarly delivered by Sabafon in Yemen, Atheeb in Saudi Arabia and STel in India.
Market Leadership in Bahrain despite Aggressive Competition
Shaikh Mohamed added: “In addition to overseas growth we are also pleased with Batelco’s ability to retain its market leading position in Bahrain across the full spectrum of telecommunications services. In spite of aggressive market competition and the first full year of operations for the third mobile operator, the Group still maintained a nearly 44% share of the mobile market and strong retention rates – a key priority - for our high value post-paid individual and business subscribers. Similarly we saw additional progress in the broadband segment in Bahrain where Batelco saw an increase of more than 50% in its wireless broadband subscriber numbers for the year. These successes, despite competitive pressures, are down to our ongoing focus on innovation and the desire to continuously work to ensure that Batelco customers are the best connected, serviced and incentivised customers in the Kingdom.”
The Group has continued with this focus in 2012 and has already made significant inroads with the launch of exciting new products, services and technologies including having recently concluded the successful trial of 4G/LTE in January 2012 at the Bahrain International Air Show.
Commitment to Delivering Value to Shareholders and Community
Closing the meeting of the General Assembly, Group Chairman Shaikh Hamad bin Abdulla Al Khalifa said: “Along with our commitment to operational excellence and the delivery of shareholder value, I’d also like to reiterate the Group’s commitment to the Kingdom of Bahrain and our local communities. We’ve served Bahrain for more than 30 years as the Kingdom’s leading telecommunications operator but even more importantly as an integral member of the community. In 2011 we continued to support development on a number of levels and are proud to have invested more than BD2.1 million in numerous noteworthy projects, initiatives and social causes and will continue to build on this in 2012.
“In concluding, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our shareholders for their continued support and confidence in Batelco Group and our strategy as well as our customers for their loyalty to Batelco brand and those of our subsidiaries in overseas markets. As we go forward, we will continue to focus on executing our strategy to grow and enhance our network and create an even stronger and more competitive company for the future. We would also like to thank the management and employees of the Group whose dedication and hard work drive our success and our ability to create greater value for customers and shareholders alike in the year ahead.”