Robi returned to the black in 2020 on the back of higher data revenue and heavy data consumption in the first quarter of the year.
The country’s second-largest mobile phone operator posted a net profit of Tk 18.77 crore between January and March, compared with net losses of Tk 24.6 crore in the same quarter a year earlier and Tk 96.9 crore in the previous quarter.
While it is a heartening development for the operator as it gears up for listing on the country’s bourse, the profit streak is unlikely to continue into the following quarter, which coincides with possibly one of the gloomiest economic slumps in recent memory.
Soon after the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 were announced on March 8, the country went into shutdown, a development that sent the operator’s data usage spiralling.
But its voice call business, which is still its bread and butter, was, however, affected in April and May as the shutdown meant a portion of its low-income subscribers were out of work, while its retailers could not open shops either.
The current revenue situation took the company where it was three to four years ago, said a Robi official requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak with the media.
“We are experiencing daily revenue shortfall of about Tk 4 crore, which is 16 per cent of our daily revenue right now,” said Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, chief executive officer of Robi, in a media briefing recently.
But, Robi has much to take heart from its first quarter performance.
The operator clocked in Tk 1,947.7 crore in revenue in the first three months of 2020, generating 6.48 per cent higher growth year-on-year.
Of the revenue, 33 per cent came from the data segment, which is the highest in a single quarter, said Robi’s parent company Axiata Group in its quarterly report recently.
Robi’s users are now consuming more data than ever, averaging 2.4 gigabytes per month as of March, also the highest in the market, the report said.
Some 43 per cent of its total 4.97 crore customers had a smartphone in March and customers pushed the digital service growth.
At the end of the quarter, 3.23 crore internet users were enjoying Robi’s data service, the report said.
“Robi experienced yet another excellent quarter with expansion recorded across all key metrics,” said Jamaludin Ibrahim, president and group CEO of Axiata, which holds 68.7 per cent shares in the operator.
The carrier managed to cut overall operational expenditure, especially in the network management, staff costs, bad debts and sales and marketing costs.
As a result of high operating leverage and lower staff costs, Robi’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation, which is a measure of a company’s overall financial performance, grew faster than revenue at 10.1 per cent, improving margins by 1.3 percentage points to 40.4 per cent.