Subscriber growth of 19.5% to 33.8 million
Data revenue growth of 38.9%
Post-merger operating as “Robi Axiata Limited”
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Robi Axiata Limited is a joint venture of Axiata Group Berhad of Malaysia, Bharti Airtel Limited of India (Bharti) and NTT DoCoMo Inc. of Japan (NTT DoCoMo). The entity ‘Robi Axiata Limited’ merged with Bharti’s operation in Bangladesh, ‘Airtel Bangladesh Limited’, in November 2016 to form the new entity where Axiata holds 68.7% controlling stake, Bharti 25% while the remaining 6.3% is held by NTT DoCoMo.
The merged entity is the second largest mobile operator in Bangladesh with 33.8 million active subscribers. It provides the country’s widest network coverage, covering 99% of the population with 9,295 2G and 5,192 3.5G sites.
Robi is the first operator to introduce GPRS and 3.5G services in Bangladesh. The Company has introduced many first of its kind digital services in the country and has invested heavily in providing mobile financial services to underserved communities in rural and semi-urban areas.
2016 proved to be a challenging year for the telco industry in Bangladesh, primarily due to regulatory impacts from required compliance for SIM biometric re-registration. The requirement caused a drop off in new subscriber activations, and subscriber growth was sluggish as a result. The situation was further complicated by the regulator deactivating unregistered biometric non-compliant SIMs.
Despite these challenging circumstances, Robi’s subscriber base increased by 19.5% to 33.8 million post-merger, representing 26.9% of industry subscriber market share, effectively cementing its position as the second largest operator in Bangladesh.
Total revenue grew marginally by 0.5% compared to the previous year, while data revenue registered strong growth of 38.9%. Data revenue growth was propelled by significant network investments to the tune of BDT20.3 billion, coupled with innovative affordable data offerings to drive 3.5G and 2.5G data use.
The Company continued investing aggressively in fast-tracking its 3.5G network expansion and improving 2.5G network quality for better customer experience both in voice and data services. Total capex investment made by Robi since inception amounted to BDT182.6 billion. Robi now has network coverage in all 64 districts in Bangladesh with 9,295 2G and 5,192 3.5G sites.
Throughout the year, Robi continued with its innovative and affordable product offerings in the market. Among them were special offerings to capture greater market share capitalising on the public interest over the Robi-Bharti merger such as the ‘Merger Bonanza Offer’ launched on the eve of the merger. The Company also expanded the Airtel-Yonder Music app offering to subscribers of the Airtel brand.
With the successful completion of the final phase of the merger in the fourth quarter of 2016, Robi has been focusing on creating the number one network which will deliver the widest mobile network coverage and superior mobile services experience to its subscribers.
In 2016, Robi registered total revenue growth of 0.5% while data revenue grew significantly by 38.9%. Data revenue growth was due to focused investments in network as well as innovative affordable data offerings to drive 3.5G and 2.5G data usage.
The Company registered fourth quarter Quarter on Quarter (QoQ) revenue growth of 5.0%, which includes 1.5 months of Airtel revenue and solid growth within the data business segment.
EBITDA margin was lower by 19.5 percentage points mainly due to one-off merger related fees and charges.
Robi’s profitability was negative at BDT3.9 billion, impacted by accelerated depreciation resulting from the nationwide network modernisation especially in the Chittagong-Comilla region.
One-off merger expenses also affected EBITDA growth which shrank by 24.9% during the year. Robi’s operating profit (EBITDA) margin was 27.2% in 2016, down 9.3 percentage points from the previous year. This was due to its marginal revenue growth, higher network operating expenses from continued network investments, and one-off merger fees and charges. Due to its sustained investment in its nationwide network modernization, Robi was lagging in terms of expected profitability in 2016.
Minutes of use/sub/month
Following the completion of the merger between Robi and Bharti, the new merged entity is now sharply focused on leveraging on the synergies of the merged company. Moving into 2017, Robi plans to deliver on its promise of creating the number one network in the country and has begun making inroads on its strategic plans in this regard, by focusing on the smooth integration of its expanded network. As the second largest mobile phone operator in Bangladesh with 33.8 million subscribers, Robi is in a strong position to offer the best network experience upon completion of its network integration exercise.
Robi will also leverage on Airtel brand’s strength within the marketplace as the telco brand of choice for the youth market in Bangladesh. Robi is continuing with its transformation journey to become the New Generation Digital Champion in Bangladesh by strengthening its digital offerings.
Robi looks forward to deriving the benefits from the injection of fresh talent from Airtel as a result of the merger, with the new team working collaboratively to further strengthen the Company’s value offerings. In the coming year, Robi will also be embarking on its drive to expand its digitisation programme throughout all processes and business units within the new merged entity.
1 2015 subscriber numbers are based on Robi's customer base pre-merger while 2016 subscriber numbers are based on Robi-Airtel post-merger consolidated subscriber base.