Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) has announced that its total mobile subscriber base in the Asia-Pacific region stood at 32.1 million at the end of 2002, up from 19.6 million the previous year, thanks in the main to strong growth from operations and affiliates in Australia (SingTel Optus), Thailand (Advanced Info Service – AIS), India (Bharti Group), Phillipines (Globe Telecom) and Indonesia (Telkomsel). In its home market state-owned SingTel saw wireless subscriber numbers rise by 11.5% in 2002 to reach 1.56 million, however, with the country rapidly reaching saturation levels for mobile services (three out of four Singaporeans owned a cellphone by 31 December 2002), in recent years it has been driven to look to other markets for fresh revenue growth. It acquired Optus in the latter half of 2001 and, despite the maturity of the Australian market, the unit achieved solid if uninspiring growth of 12% to end the year with 4.54 million customers and a market share of 34%.
Faster growth was recorded, however, in markets where SingTel has forged alliances with local operators through minority shareholdings. In Thailand, AIS reported a 105% jump in cellular users to 10.7 million giving it a 60% share of the market. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Telkomsel said its subscriber base rose dramatically by 85% to six million, equating to a 52% market share, and Filipino operator Globe witnessed 43% growth to 6.57 million subscribers. SingTel’s Bharti Televentures affiliate in India reported a massive 150% rise in additions to end the year with 2.77 million customers. Despite the scale of the growth from its pan-regional operations, doubts remain that SingTel has yet to realise any tangible profits from its international associations. Its Indian venture is losing money while Telkomsel has also been highlighted as under-performing. SingTel will release Q3 results later this week with analysts predicting profits of around SGD284 million (USD163.3 million), down on the SGD290 million recorded a year ago.