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Belgacom - No cracks in BICS citadel, but EBU and CBU eroding

Belgacom - No cracks in BICS citadel, but EBU and CBU eroding

03.05.2013 9:19

Belgacom’s 1Q13 results were rather mixed. Revenues of € 1,586m were ahead of expectations but were mainly driven by the strong performance of the carrier activities while CBU and EBU were down more than expected ex-regulation. EBITDA at € 441m was bang in line with our expectations but includes the € 11m gain realized on a technical building sale. On a clean basis, REBITDA was down 8.4%. Subscriber numbers –which were supported by converged offers –were a tad disappointing. Quarterly FCF was way below expectations. The FY13 outlook is reiterated.

1Q13 financials:On a quarterly basis, revenues decreased by 0.1% to € 1,586m (KBCSe: € 1,573m / css: € 1,572m). EBITDA amounted to € 441m (KBCSe: € 441m / css: € 440m), which constitutes a y/y drop of 6.1%. This equates to a 27.8% margin. Belgacom (17,26 EUR, -1,40%) attributes this to (1) pressure in mobile; (2) negative regulatory impact (-3.2%) and (3) a higher HR expenses due to wage indexation. The company posted CBU revenue of € 553m (KBCSe: € 563m / css: € 564m) which includes the effect of the TPH sale and EBU revenue of € 554m (KBCSe: € 567m / css: € 564m) which was down due to adverse product mix changes. Divisional EBITDA was respectively € 248 (KBCSe: € 240m / css: € 240m) and € 260m (KBCSe: € 275m / css: € 274m).

Operationals KPIs: Group-wide quarterly subscriber adds were not great with BB in line, TV slightly worse than expected (but still a notable exception as it has an increasing ARPU) and mobile/fixed voice more reddish than expected: TV +26k vs +31k exp; mobile -52k vs -39k exp; broadband +10k vs +9k exp; fixed voice -44k vs -32k exp. Good to see that post-paid is back to growth on the back of the revised rate plans and stepped-up marketing efforts.

Cash generation and net debt: FCF came in at € 89m, a y/y drop of 50.3% with consensus and ourselves aiming for respectively € 166m and € 171m. Main drivers for this were lower EBITDA, higher taxes, higher capex (roll-out LTE and DLM) and higher WC needs. Net debt at the end of 1Q13 decreased by € 95m, amounting to € 1,506m. As such Belgacom remains to have one of the lowest net debt positions among European telcos. The € 535m dividend distribution will impact this sound net debt position in 2Q13.

Outlook FY13 reiterated: Belgacom guides for a revenue drop of 1-2%, which is in line with the -1.4% expected by css and our -1.6% estimate. Over 2013, Belgacom expects a 4-6% decline in EBITDA. This compares to our and consensus expectations of respectively -5.9% and -5.7%. As to safeguard its convergence strategy, investments (vectoring, LTE, DLM) are needed. As such, capex would increase to around 13-14% of revenues (excl. 800MHz spectrum auction).

Our View & Conclusion:On a clean basis 1Q13 EBITDA is down 8.4% and as such is behind expectations. Revenue is holding up nicely but mainly driven by the (lower-margin) carrier activities. We stick to our € 20 PT and reiterate our Accumulate rating. Conference call scheduled at 14:00 (CET).

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