SmarTone deputy chairman Allen Fung warned a latest wave of Covid-19 (coronvirus) added uncertainty to its business outlook during its fiscal H1 2022 (to end-December 2021), but highlighted positives around profitability.

During the Hong Kong operator’s earnings call, Fung highlighted a return to revenue growth driven by demand for higher-priced 5G services, along with improvements around cost-efficiency.

Looking ahead, Fung said SmarTone was cautious as the operating environment remains challenging, noting higher spectrum amortisation costs in the second half of the fiscal year will put additional pressure on profitability.

SmarTone claimed 5G network coverage reached 99 per cent of the population at end-2021.

Net profit attributable to shareholders fell 6 per cent year-on-year to HKD251 million ($32.1 million). The figure in the comparable period of fiscal 2020 included government subsidies: excluding these, the latest number was 34 per cent higher.

Service revenue increased 3 per cent to HKD2.2 billion, attributed to strong uptake of 5G services, with next-generation subscribers accounting for a fifth of its post-paid user base.

Handset and accessory sales rose 44 per cent to HKD1.5 billion.

Higher 5G tariffs compared with LTE pricing contributed to a 4 per cent rise in post-paid ARPU to HKD210.

Total mobile subscribers dropped 5 per cent to 2.7 million, with gains in post-paid users offset by drops in prepaid.