Wi-Tribe Telecoms’ losses climb amid fall in subscribers

2 May 2014

Liberty Telecoms Holdings, the Filipino operator that offers WiMAX services through its Wi-Tribe Telecoms subsidiary, has reported that net losses in FY2013 increased slightly on the back of a fall in wireless broadband subscribers. In a market filing with the Philippine bourse, Liberty Telecoms said that net losses for the year stood at PHP1.54 billion (USD34.6 million), up 1.9% on the loss of PHP1.51 billion its reported in FY2012. The holding group blamed the worsening position to losses incurred at Wi-Tribe Telecoms, amid a drop in user numbers. Revenue for the full year slumped 24.0% to PHP447.35 million from PHP587.44 million in FY2012 as a result of the downward trend. Although it declined to provide a subscriber update it noted: ‘The group’s revenues for the period reflect the decrease in subscribers of post-paid and pre-paid WIMAX broadband [services].’ Operating expenses however, were trimmed by 15% last year to PHP1.65 billion from PHP1.95 billion, as a bullish Liberty Telecom said its principal shareholders remain committed to providing the group with financial and operational support – as a going concern. The statement read: ‘The group’s major shareholders, however, fully understand that these losses should be expected at this early stage of business operations following the February 2010 launch of the group’s mobile internet access product through the group’s subsidiary Wi-Tribe Telecoms.’

Liberty Telecoms Holdings is part of the food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp (SMC) group. SMC purchased a 32.70% share in the group for PHP1.88 billion in July 2009. Ooredoo (formerly Qatar Telecom [Qtel]) acquired 27.12% of the operator through the conversion of its loans to the telecom firm into equity in 2009, and it subsequently upped its interest to 32.70% as of October 2010, held via its 100%-owned subsidiary Wi-Tribe Asia Limited; the Qatari group has since increased its stake again to 40.00%. Meanwhile, in November 2010 SMC upped its stake of Liberty from 33.00% to 41.48%, by purchasing 64.58 million common shares in the operator priced at PHP3.40 per share. Liberty Telecoms Holding has been under corporate rehabilitation since December 2006 and expected to exit on December 2016.