SingTel : Red Dragon of the Telco World

Presentation1There is a small island nation without any natural resources where its 5 million inhabitants generate an explosive economy worth $ 300 + billion with a GDP per capita of $ 60000 +. They are considered one of the most wealthiest nations in the world and a testament to a culture of enlightened discipline and personal rectitude . Yes : it is Singapore !! And this powerhouse nation is also home to a Telco Titan : SingTel

SingTel is Asia’s leading communications group with operations and investments around the world .With significant operations in Singapore and Australia (through wholly-owned subsidiary SingTel Optus), the Group provides a comprehensive portfolio of services that includes voice and data solutions over fixed, wireless and Internet platforms, as well as infocomm technology and pay TV. The Group has presence in Asia and Africa with 473 million mobile customers in 26 countries, including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

SingTel’s domestic operation, is a typical full-service converged carrier. Currently, their top priority is the deployment of 4G wireless and FTTH in the fixed sphere. SingTel is cooperating in the Singaporean government’s national broadband network project, which aims to provide 1Gbps service and to offer full openness at Layer 2 and also at Layer 0 (i.e. to the ducts ).SingTel are also a very significant force in carrier services, wholesale, and IP transit. SingTel is also aiming to double the size of its satellite business, with two satellite launches scheduled within the next two years via JV’s.

Recently the operator decided to restructure its business into three units : group consumer, group digital life and group ICT-in order to sustain growth, competitiveness, and innovation. With the reorganization, SingTel plan to reinvent its core carriage business, create and drive new growth platforms that leverage and strengthen the core, and turbo-charge its regional capabilities in ICT services. They broke new ground with the introduction of PowerON Compute Service. This state-of-the-art cloud solution provides enterprises with the business agility and cost effectiveness of public clouds without compromising on portability, compatibility, security and control demanded by enterprise IT organisations.

SingTel is banking on acquisitions of smaller companies to help drive growth in its business as revenue slows from mature markets like Singapore and Australia. SingTel plans to spend US$1.6 billion in three years to acquire companies specializing in digital advertising, content and entertainment. That $1.6 billion investment will be spread over the next three years, and will be largely ploughed into strategic acquisitions in the online space that can tie in with SingTel’s phone services across the region. SingTel spent US$400 million in acquiring advertising, entertainment and digital commerce firms in the last fiscal year, including the US$321 billion it paid for Amobee, a U.S.-based mobile advertising company. By leveraging their unique assets and Amobee, they will be able to realise the full potential of mobile marketing as a platform to change the way brands communicate with their customers.

The company is also using surplus cash to step up dividend payments to keep investors happy even as it continues to invest in its core telecommunications business. SingTel’s dividend payout ratio ranges from 55 per cent to 70 per cent of underlying net profit. The Group will continue to review at least on a three-year basis its cash needs for operations and growth, with a view to returning surplus cash to shareholders. This is consistent with the Group’s commitment to an optimal capital structure and investment grade credit ratings, while maintaining financial flexibility.

Companies like SingTel go beyond access business, positioning themselves as service providers and complementing their traditional sales and network operations with a third element, a “telco innovation factory” charged with developing and marketing new services. The innovation factory consist of access-centric services that use the existing network and IT platforms – in the e-health segment, for instance – or regional OTT-related offerings such as TV. Such services will be embedded in partners’ service suites or, depending on the extent to which the ad valorem aspect is to be emphasized, on proprietary platforms that integrate third-party services. SingTel is attempting to buck the trend of telcos becoming just a big, fat dumb pipe that only competes on price. Their vision is to really go after the heart and soul of the consumer, ultimately to drive a deeper connection that substantially increases the value of SingTel.

Aligning strategic positioning with shared values opens up fundamentally new ways of thinking about business. From being known as a telecom carrier, Singtel can become a smarter cities builder, a wellness provider or a health and safety enabler : whatever !! They have recognized that mobile operators will play a crucial role in working together with a range of industry partners in health, automotive, education, smart cities and a range of vertical industries to accelerate the launch of valuable connected services. SingTel Life Labs is a global innovation initiative to accelerate innovation and application development through collaboration with strategic partners, renowned research institutes as well as the innovator and developer ecosystems. They created an App that helps Singapore residents navigate increasingly large and confusing shopping malls using “ sensor fusion “ and Wifi triangulation .

Chua Sock Koong, SingTel Group CEO, states : “SingTel has a long history of quietly, but successfully, making bold and industry-shaping investments. We now see some of the largest and most exciting opportunities that have ever existed in this industry… We need to learn from past failures and be prepared to reiterate a bold idea if we believe it will eventually bear fruit. Even when we do not succeed, we expect a “fail fast and fail cheap” mentality to produce valuable learnings that can form the basis of long-term advantage against competition..”

Strategic partnerships , savvy aquisitions , superior investments , superfast super rich broadband networks : this kind of cerebral leadership summarises why SingTel has become such great company. And by the way …Chua Sock Koong is a female CEO in a male dominated telco world !!!

Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )

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