Axiata Group targeted continued earnings momentum over the course of 2022, after what president and CEO Izzaddin Idris (pictured) noted had been a better-than-expected 2021 given a cautious start to the year.

On an earnings call, Idris forecast mid-single-digit growth for service revenue and high single-digit EBIT gains.

The Axiata chief also outlined downside risks including regulatory challenges, an ongoing chip shortage, higher taxes in Sri Lanka and Malaysia, and an uncertain macroeconomic environment, particularly in Myanmar where its edotco tower unit holds significant assets.

Idris explained Axiata hoped Malaysian regulators would soon complete an evaluation of a planned merger of Celcom and Digi, and while he wouldn’t speculate on how close the deal is to being finalised, he explained the operators had committed a team of 85 to work on an integration plan, which he believes is the most difficult element in such tie-ups.

Ups and downs
In Q4, Axiata booked net profit of MYR211.5 million ($50.5 million) compared with a MYR398.4 million loss in Q4 2020.

Consolidated revenue increased 10.2 per cent to MYR6.9 billion, driven by a recovery by Celcom and double-digit revenue growth at XL in Indonesia.

Celcom revenue grew 7.7 per cent to MYR1.7 billion with subscribers rising 10.6 per cent to 9.6 million and net profit doubling to MYR428.5 million.

XL’s mobile sales climbed 12.1 per cent to MYR2.04 billion with its subscriber base flat at 57.9 million and net profit up more than 100 per cent to MYR93 million.

Dialog booked 7.1 per cent revenue growth to MYR766.9 million, with subscribers up 8.8 per cent to 17.7 million and net profit 25 per cent to MYR94.4 million.

Robi revenue increased 7 per cent to MYR995.3 million and profit fell 66.7 per cent to MYR6.3 million. It added 2.8 million subscribers for a total of 53.7 million.

Nepal-based Ncell’s revenue fell 1.7 per cent to MYR364.6 million, with profit of MYR62.2 million.

Cambodia-based Smart’s profit rose 48.6 per cent to MYR78.4 million with revenue flat at MYR388.5 million and edotco profit more than doubled to MYR64.2 million, with revenue up 8.9 per cent to MYR531.3 million.

Idris highlighted opex savings of MYR696 million in 2021 and the company earmarked MYR7.1 billion in capex for 2022, down slightly, with a focus on expanding its 4G footprint in Indonesia and adding towers at edotco.