TELECOM SECTOR LEAST AFFECTED BY GLOBAL SHOCKS

DISCRIMINATORY TAXES HITTING THE CELLULAR INDUSTRY

AMANULLAH BASHAR
Dec 08 - 21, 2008

The year 2008 has brought about a slow down in economic indicators not only in Pakistan but worldwide. Consequently, almost all industries have received the global shocks and the telecommunication industry was not an exception.

However, the telecom sector is showing resilience and successfully meeting the challenges. In the revenue collecting policies framed by the government level playing field has not been provided to the telecom sector especially in the existing taxation regime.

Well placed sources in the telecom sector while expressing their dismays over what they called the discrimination with the telecom sector observed that all industries are being levied with a 16% GST, while the Mobile Communication Industry is worst affected with a levy of 21% GST.

Beside that a number of issues related to power shortages, fuel prices, and other inputs for the industry exist. Strict measures related to sale of SIMs and SIM verification are also affecting the business negatively. This scenario means that not only cost of doing business is going up but also the high tax structure and inflationary pressures force subscribers to cut down their usage.

TELENOR PAKISTAN

Telenor Pakistan being one of the leading players in the telecom sector on the back of its well designed strategies is coping with the situation diligently. In such tough times, Telenor Pakistan has slightly increased its market share up to 21% despite a weak Q3 for the industry. This also reflects our conviction to abide by all rules and regulations defined by the PTA. We have observed an 18% decrease in the ARPU which was mainly due to the increased taxes payable by our customers. It is important to mention here that Telenor Pakistan reacted positively to this situation and introduced the new 75ps per second call rates to provide some relief to customers.

CURRENT PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND INITIATIVES

Telenor Pakistan has always aimed at being innovative by introducing attractive offers in the market and providing best value for money. Currently, Telenor has the largest EDGE network, the simplest and most competitive call rates, and the largest bouquet of VAS services increasing with the growing need of our valued customers. At Telenor Pakistan, we also consider CSR a core function of the business and our Corporate Responsibility Team has also put in efforts to support the community as a whole.

VALUE ADDED SERVICES (VAS):

With over 250 VAS services, Telenor Pakistan believes in providing greater accessibility & convenience to customers. Holding the most innovative set of VAS, Telenor Pakistan has introduced services that cater to the needs of either gender or all age groups.

Services like Telenor Music Box, Telenor Song Dedication service, Opera Mini and USB Edge Stick provide our customers easy entertainment as well as internet access on-the-go.

Telenor Secure All was just recently introduced to ensure maximum security for valued customers. This service will prevent any loss of data by a data backup service as well as locking of mobile sets in case of misplacement or theft.

'Djuice unlimited SMS' and 'Telenor Talkshawk- SMS Full Time' provide customers an opportunity to utilize the SMS facility to a maximum.

The VAS service 'Telenor Mobile Akhbar' in collaboration with BBC Urdu services provides ready access to latest news and Telenor's 'Stock Service' provides updates on the local stock market. These services are receiving tremendous response and very useful for customers.

CALL OFFERS:

Telenor's calling offers and call rates have been the most innovative and competitive in the market. While 'Telenor Lunch Time Offer' for unlimited calls for all pre-paid clients received an overwhelming response in the limited time that it was offered, 'djuice 5 minute mein free' and 'djuice Jagtey Raho' are still being widely used. Just recently, Telenor Pakistan introduced the cheapest call rates in the industry on Telenor Talkshawk 30 second package.

CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY:

Telenor Pakistan is effectively utilizing its telecommunication expertise for supporting its corporate responsibility initiatives with projects like DUA, Apna PCO, Naya Qadam, Blood Donation playing their role in the community. Telenor Pakistan introduced Meri Helpline in collaboration with Initiator Human Development Foundation (IHDF). This is a first of its kind service that allows street children in Karachi to seek support by calling a dedicated helpline free of cost.

Another initiative was to install two portable BTS towers in Vam, Ziarat in order to provide uninterrupted communications facility to both the residents and the aid workers. This was coupled by distribution of free SIMs and air time to relief workers from various NGO's.

FUTURE PLANS

Telenor Pakistan's vision is to help customers get the full benefits of communications services in their daily lives. To achieve this vision, we are geared to provide access of communication services for all. This will involve constant engagement and meaningful interaction with all stakeholders including government and competitors.

Telenor Pakistan will continue to be a leader in innovation by providing unique offerings and socially inclusive services. Telenor is eyeing for branching into new businesses that have clear synergy with mobility such as Financial Services.

Telenor Pakistan is also looking forward to the introduction of 3G which will offer operators business continuity as the associated spectrum will allow additional voice capacity to address urban capacity constraints, drive down costs, and enrich VAS to enhance ARPUs.

ACQUISITION

In November 2008, Telenor Pakistan also entered into an agreement to acquire 51 per cent shares in Tameer Microfinance Bank with a foreign direct investment of USD 12.5 million (PKR 1 billion approximately) in direct rights issue. The proceeds from the rights issue will be used to finance the further development of the bank. The acquisition of Tameer Microfinance Bank is part of strategy to offer financial services in Pakistan. Tameer and Telenor Pakistan have a common vision of how a bank and a telecom company can work together to provide services for the benefit of the customers.

Recently, Telenor also signed agreements with various stakeholders which will help it further improve its services and the customers' experience with Telenor Pakistan.

PAKISTAN'S LIQUID FOREIGN RESERVES POSITION

The total liquid foreign reserves held by the country stood at $ 9,081.9million on 29th November, 2008.

The break-up of the foreign reserves position is as under:-

i) Foreign reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan: $ 5,942.8 million
ii) Net foreign reserves held by banks (other than SBP): $ 3,139.1 million
iii) Total liquid foreign reserves: $ 9,081.9 million