February 22, 2018 / 1:42 PM / 4 months ago

Malaysia's Axiata swings to profit on cost cuts, data earnings

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Malaysia’s biggest telecoms firm Axiata Group Bhd reported a fourth quarter net profit of 24.7 million ringgit ($6.31 million) after a net loss of 309.5 million ringgit a year earlier, helped by cost cutting and rising data earnings.

Revenue climbed 8.2 percent to 6.3 billion ringgit, powered by strong performance from the group’s main mobile units in Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh.

Axiata, Malaysia’s biggest telecoms firm by market value, said the revenue rise was fuelled by the data business that contributed 49.2 percent to service revenue compared to 37.9 percent a year earlier.

“Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) increased by 17.5 percent quarter-on-quarter driven by strong increase in revenue growth and cost optimisation drive across the group,” it said.

Most markets saw revenue growth, but overall revenues from associates and joint ventures were weighed down by losses in India due to stiff competition, Axiata said.

The company said it hoped the merger of Idea Cellular Ltd , the loss-making Indian firm in which Axiata has as a stake, and Vodafone India Ltd would be completed in 2018.

Axiata said its 19.7 percent stake in Idea would be diluted to 18.1 percent as it had not participate in Idea’s preferential share issuance. The stake will shrink to below 10 percent after in the merged company.

“In the long run, we might consider a possible exit but I won’t dare give guidance on the timing,” Axiata Chief Executive Officer Jamaludin Ibrahim told a briefing on its results.

Axiata’s shares had slipped 0.2 percent to 5.67 ringgit at the day’s close.

$1 = 3.9150 ringgit Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Edmund Blair

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