Hong Kong-based SmarTone forecast a return to earnings growth in the current fiscal year driven by strong uptake of 5G services boosting ARPU, despite a drop in profit in its fiscal 2022 (ending 30 June).

Deputy CEO Norman Tam (pictured) explained in its earnings release that while economic conditions are expected to be challenging, the operator showed “resilience and is back to growth”.

We see significant opportunities” from more subscribers moving to 5G, and emerging growth engines in enterprise and 5G home broadband services.

He noted weak economic conditions and a highly competitive mobile market put continued pressure on pricing of many services.

Net profit declined 5 per cent year-on-year to HKD423 million ($53.9 million). Service revenue rose 3 per cent to HKD4.5 billion, supported by a 5 per cent rise in post-paid ARPU to HKD213 and a modest recovery in international roaming.

The company said EBITDA grew and is higher than two years ago despite greater spectrum costs.

It expects spectrum costs to peak in fiscal 2023 and will be less than 10 per cent higher than in fiscal 2022.

SmarTone’s mobile customer base was steady at 2.7 million, with 5G subscribers accounting for about 28 per cent of post-paid users, up from a high teen percentage.

GSMA Intelligence data estimated paid-post subscribers made up 75.7 per cent of SmarTone’s total at end-June.

SmarTone is the smallest of four mobile players in the territory by subscribers.