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Announcement:

Moody's: Stable outlook as Asian telcos focus on domestic markets

 The document has been translated in other languages

05 Nov 2012

Singapore, November 05, 2012 -- Moody's Investors Service says the outlook for the Asia Pacific telecommunications industry is stable, reflecting Moody's expectation that revenue growth will be broadly in line with GDP growth in key Asian countries, given the essentially domestic focus of the Asian telcos.

"Aggregate revenue growth will slow to 1%-3% for Asia Pacific telcos in developed markets and to 4%-7% in emerging markets, given the maturing industry structure and shift away from the voice and SMS markets," says Nidhi Dhruv, a Moody's Analyst.

"As the industry matures, data usage will drive revenue growth. Throughout the region, we expect 3G/data usage to increase significantly as cheaper smartphones and tablets become the first and main connection for later adopters of broadband technology," adds Dhruv.

Dhruv was speaking on a newly released Moody's industry outlook titled "Asia Pacific Telecommunications Industry, Domestic Focus Provides Stability Amid Uncertain Global Economy," which she co-authored.

Smartphone penetration continues to rise, particularly in developed Asian countries as operators subsidize the cost of handsets to encourage take-up and as subscribers trade up to newer and more sophisticated handsets.

Moody's expects EBITDA margins to contract one to two percentage points to a still strong 38%-39% over the next 12 to 18 months, as mobile penetration deepens, leading to intensified competition, with Korean telcos cited as the most vulnerable. "An increase in data usage as well as information and communication technology services, which have lower margins, will add to the pressure for companies," adds Dhruv.

To maintain competitive margins, telcos are seeking to make capex more efficient and are also launching creative and targeted pricing plans. For example, some operators are sharing infrastructure as a means of managing their cost base, or have recently replaced data plans with tiered pricing platforms to support their margins.

Within Asia Pacific, Indonesia is a forerunner in infrastructure sharing and telcos in Malaysia and Hong Kong are also embarking on this strategy.

"Leverage will remain moderately high as capital spending and dividends increase over the next 12 months. Capital spending, as a percentage of revenue, will remain around 20%-22% over the outlook period, before declining, as companies complete their 3G, 4G and fiber rollouts," says Dhruv.

With large-scale network build-outs substantially complete, operators will likely increase shareholder returns.

Liquidity remains a core strength, as most of the rated telcos will maintain strong liquidity profiles and retain access to diverse, committed and term funding from the bank and bond markets.

Moody's would consider changing the industry outlook to negative if (1) revenue growth falls consistently below GDP growth, (2) EBITDA margins weaken more than three to four percentage points, and (3) industry average capital spending, as a percentage of revenue, exceeds 25%.

An outlook change to positive would be considered if (1) revenue growth trends higher than GDP growth, (2) EBITDA margins increase by two to three percentage points, and (3) the ratio of capital spending to revenue stabilizes at around 15%.

Moody's rates 23 telecommunications issuers in Asia Pacific; only one is on review for downgrade and four have negative outlooks.

Subscribers can access the report on http://www.moodys.com/research/Asia-Pacific-Telecommunications-Industry-Domestic-Focus-Provides-Stability-Amid-Uncertain--PBC_146484

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS ONLY: For more information, please call one of our global press information hotlines: New York +1-212-553-0376, London +44-20-7772-5456, Tokyo +813-5408-4110, Hong Kong +852-3758-1350, Sydney +61-2-9270-8141, Mexico City 001-888-779-5833, São Paulo 0800-891-2518, or Buenos Aires 0800-666-3506. You can also email us at mediarelations@moodys.com or visit our web site at www.moodys.com.

Nidhi?Dhruv
Analyst
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service Singapore Pte. Ltd.
50 Raffles Place #23-06
Singapore Land Tower
Singapore 48623
Singapore
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Laura Acres
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Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service Singapore Pte. Ltd.
50 Raffles Place #23-06
Singapore Land Tower
Singapore 48623
Singapore
JOURNALISTS: (852) 3758 -1350
SUBSCRIBERS: (65) 6398-8308

Moody's: Stable outlook as Asian telcos focus on domestic markets
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