In terms of EBITDA margin, eight of the top ten cellcos ranked by TeleGeography’s Wireless Operator Metrics ranking service hail from Asia, with the two remaining coming from Eastern Europe. New evidence-based research by TeleGeography reveals that Telkomsel of Indonesia came top of the heap in 2005 recording an EBITDA margin of 73% in 2005, maintaining its lead at the top of the table for a second year running (2004: 72.3%). OT Iraq, part of the Egyptian based wireless holding company Orascom, scooped second place with a margin of 69.8%, climbing eight places during the course of 2005, while India’s BSNL claimed third spot with a 2005 EBITDA margin of 69.1%, down two places compared to the previous year, and Azerbaijani cellco Azercell recorded a figure of 63.4% to come fourth. Two filippino companies appear in the top ten, Smart Communications (5th, 61.7%) and Globe Telecom (8th, 57.2%), while two representatives from Eastern Europe are placed 6th (Uzdunrobita of Uzbekistan, 60.6%) and tenth (Kyivstar of Ukraine, 55.7%).
The highest ranking western European cellco was Vodafone Italy, which is placed 14th, with an EBITDA margin of 53.1%, followed by rival Telecom Italia Mobile (25th: 50.5%) and Vodafone Germany (31st:47.3%). Africa’s highest ranked cellco is MTN Nigeria (17th: 52.4%), followed by South Africa’s Vodacom (64th: 35.9%) and Vodacom Lesotho (68th: 35%). The highest ranked US based company was Verizon Wireless (57th: 37.6%), followed by Alltel Mobile (66th: 35.3%) and Sprint Nextel (84th:28.3%).
Close to the bottom of the table (of 112 operators ranked) are a number of new market entrants to high growth markets, including Banglalink (Bangladesh), Astelit (Ukraine) and Hutchison CAT (Thailand), which all appear to be happy to – for the time being at least – sacrifice margins in an attempt to establish a decent foothold. seven companies registered negative EBITDA margins in 2005, with two operators from Latin America performing well below par. Brazilian operator Telecom Americas, the local arm of regional wireless holding company America Movil, recorded a figure of -3.4%, while Telefonica Moviles Mexico stated a figure of -20.4%, as it tries to reshape its business in the face of ever-increasing competition from former Telmex subsidiary Telcel. Indeed, Telefonica Moviles’ Capex/Revenue in Mexico is relatively high compared to other markets where it has a presence, and was actually highest in the group in 2003, 2004 and Q4 2005.