KUALA LUMPUR: Axiata Group Bhd, which posted a net loss of RM255.95mil in the fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2020 (4Q20), has declared a second interim dividend of five sen per share. Its revenue in the fourth was flat at RM6.262bil against RM6.267bil in the same period a year ago. Axiata said its 4Q20 profit was impacted by accelerated depreciation and write off of assets, mainly for 3G assets amounting to RM1.06bil. “As a result, group profit after tax and Patami (profit after tax and minority interest) decreased significantly to record a net loss of RM398.4mil and RM256mil respectively,” Axiata said in the notes accompanying its financial results. For the full financial year, Axiata’s net profit plunged 74.9% to RM365.15mil, or 4 sen earnings per share (EPS) against RM1.45bil, or 16 sen EPS. Axiata said revenue for the full year declined by 1.5% to RM24.2bil from RM24.5bil in the same period last year, mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown measures across operating companies’ (OpCos) markets. Despite the drop in revenue, Axiata said group Ebitda was flat at RM10.65bil with improvement from all OpCos, except mobile operations in Malaysia and Nepal and the infrastructure segment. Axiata’s balance sheet remained anchored on a strong footing at the close of the year with a high cash balance of RM7.2bil and gross debt to Ebitda at 2.57 times. Its optimal capex spending lifted operating free cash flow by 73.1% to RM3.3bil. Axiata said the second interim dividend of five sen brought the total dividend for the year to 7.0 sen, as it transitions to a “high dividend” company with dividend per share target of 20 sen by 2024. The details of entitlement and payment date of the above said dividend will be determined and announced in due course, Axiata said. In a statement Thursday, chairman Tan Sri Ghazzali Sheikh Abdul Khalid said: “For 2021, the Board’s focus will be firmly trained on challenging the Axiata management to keep a steady hold on business even as we remain responsible in how we navigate continued uncertainties and increasingly competitive markets in a digitally heightened environment.” President and group CEO Datuk Izzaddin Idris treading with cautious optimism into the year, the group is focused on conserving cash mainly via capex efficiencies and disciplined efforts to manage its costs across the group whilst also taking steps to build a war chest for new normal growth opportunities. “On that note, it is encouraging to see better-than-expected results for FY2020, with revenue and Ebitda holding steady despite extenuating externalities. “Our high cash balance of RM7.2bil gives us confidence to navigate uncertainties and move quickly to capture growth and expansion opportunities,” he said. He added that Axiata made the mission critical decision to bite the bullet and accelerate 3G shutdowns across the group to enhance network resilience for what will be a dynamic and digitally-intensive future.” “Axiata’s guidance for 2021 of low single digit revenue and Ebitda growth reflects our cautious optimism. “In addition to a fragile macroeconomic environment, the industry will continue to grapple with challenges such as network capacity demand, government-led initiatives and ongoing regulatory uncertainties mainly stemming from prolonged Covid-19 impacts,” Izzaddin said.
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