Telecommunication network operator Smart Axiata Co Ltd contributed $339 million or 1.5 percent to Cambodia’s gross domestic product (GDP) of $22 billion in 2017, an 8.3% increase year-on-year from $313 million, said its chief executive officer Thoman Hundt.
The company paid $76 million in taxes, levies and regulatory fees last year that made up 3% of the state coffer in terms of tax income.
“We also invested $80 million in capital expenditure to enhance its network infrastructure and $139 million in operational expenditure. We spent over one percent of total $268 million revenue for corporate social responsibility programmes,” he said.
Speaking at the launch of its Sustainability Report 2017 titled ‘Connecting Cambodia to a sustainable future’, Hundt said the capex for Smart Axiata, which is 82.5%-owned by Kuala Lumpur-listed Axiata Group Bhd, shows its commitment in investing and expanding in coverage and data capacity in Cambodia.
“I am particularly proud of the increase in our national economic contributions, and strengthened mobile data leadership. We achieved a major first in introducing 4G+ with high definition voice and 4.5G and promoting local digital entrepreneurship in a meaningful way, including through the $5 million Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund and the SmartStart: Young Innovator Program.
“The annual SmartEdu scholarship intake was also increased to 20 students. Furthermore, many internal and external digitisation initiatives were accomplished in line with our vision of becoming Cambodia’s Digital Champion by 2020,” he said.
Last year, the group focused on contributing to national economic growth, enriching lives through advanced technology and digital inclusivity, and driving the local ecosystem and creating value for the underserved.
It hedged its growth on four pillars comprising beyond short-term profits, nurturing people, process excellence, and planet and society.
“It has been a very challenging year for us but it is important to focus on long-term sustainable value creation, and not just short-term profits. In order to do that, all operators should focus on sustainable growth.
“If all operators focus on sustainable growth, the industry would become more profitable and it would benefit stakeholders,” Hundt said.
He stressed this is important in order to have a level playing field that would enable the company to see better revenue and profit growth, therefore better contribution to the state.
“I cannot say what the revenue growth would be for this year (financial year ending Dec 31, 2018) but it would be more than $268 million. That is very good because at the end of the day, it flows back into the society for investment,” he added.
Moving forward, Smart Axiata is looking ahead at what comes next in tech particularly the advent of 5G in 2021 but for the moment it would focus on investing in its 4G infrastructure.
In 2017, the company had 2,333 base station nationwide equipped with 3.75G and 89% with 4G coverage, and a 7.3 million subscriber base.
“Everyone is talking about 5G or at least the industry is looking ahead but for us, 4G infrastructure or investment is the primary investment area, and our data traffic is going through the roof. We have a lot more data customers. That answers a lot more for the cost of investments to the network. That is what we are doing this year and very likely next year,” Hundt said.