Thailand-based AIS reported continued weakness in mobile revenue in Q4 2020 with prepaid and post-paid ARPU declining, but posted profit growth following cost reductions and lower expenses.

Net profit rose 5 per cent year-on-year to THB7.41 billion ($247.1 million), due mainly to lower finance costs and income tax. Cost-cutting also led to a 33 per cent drop in marketing expenses.

Revenue fell 4.4 per cent to THB46.1 billion, attributed to weak consumer spending, increased competition around unlimited data plans and the loss of revenue from international tourists.

The operator said the economy remained sluggish while a new phase of Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreaks emerged in December 2020, posing further challenges to recovery.

Mobile service revenue dropped 6.5 per cent to THB29 billion and device sales slid 3 per cent to THB10.5 billion.

After introducing 5G packages in October, the company ended 2020 with 239,000 subscribers, accounting for 2.4 per cent of its post-paid total. With 5G data plans geared toward large-volume users, ARPU among early adopters increased 10 per cent to 15 per cent.

AIS said the adoption rate was still limited due to the high price of compatible handsets.

Total post-paid subscribers grew 12 per cent to 10.2 million and prepaid declined 5.1 per cent to 31.2 million. Post-paid and prepaid ARPU were down 2.3 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively to THB486 and THB152.

The operator said despite a slowdown in revenue since the beginning of 2020, it maintained its investment plan to strengthen its network. Full-year capex increased to THB35 billion from THB20 billion in 2019.

Capex in 2021, excluding spectrum costs, is set at THB25 billion to THB30 billion.

Core service revenue in 2021 is forecast to increase by a low-single digit.