Telenor tried to put a positive spin on Q4 2018 numbers which did little to impress, after net income almost halved year-on-year.

The figure fell from NOK2.23 billion ($262.5 million) in Q4 2017 to NOK1.18 billion in the recent quarter: revenue fell 2 per cent year-on-year to NOK28.17 billion.

In a statement, the operator argued it is maintaining the “priorities and financial ambitions” of a strategy implemented in 2017.

On an organic basis, subscription and traffic revenue decreased by 0.7 per cent and 2.1 per cent respectively. The company said strong performances in Bangladesh and Pakistan (which each registered double digit growth) was offset by further declines in Thailand and a continuing downward trend in Myanmar.

Coupled with a decline in fixed legacy revenue in Norway, on a group level this took it into “negative territory”.

Sigve Brekke, president and CEO (pictured), said returning to growth in Thailand and Myanmar “will be a top priority for us this year”.

The drop in profit was attributed to expenses related to a settlement with CAT Telecom in Thailand of NOK2.1 billion and a decrease in net financial items of NOK1.8 billion due to higher net currency losses. This was partially offset by lower depreciation and higher profit from discontinued operations resulting in a gain from the partial disposal of Telenor Microfinance Bank.

Full year
In 2018, net income of NOK14.63 billion was up 22.1 per cent, while revenue decreased 1.5 per cent to NOK110.4 billion. The bottom line was aided by the Telenor Microfinance Bank deal, along with disposal of assets in Central and Eastern Europe.

Excluding Thailand, for which an update will be issued in the second quarter, Telenor expects organic subscription and traffic revenue growth of up to 2 per cent and an increase in organic EBITDA of between 1 per cent and 3 per cent during 2019.

The company is proposing a 4 per cent increase in dividends, and is looking for a mandate to buy back up to 3 per cent of its shares.

Earlier this week, it was reported that an activist investor was calling on Telenor to spin-off its mobile towers and restructure its funding to boost shareholder value.