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Edited Transcript of ORDS.OM earnings conference call or presentation 4-Mar-20 10:00am GMT

Q4 2019 Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG Earnings Call

Mar 23, 2020 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, March 4, 2020 at 10:00:00am GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi

Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO

* Ahmed Al Khuzairi

Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - Investor Relation Manager

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Conference Call Participants

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* Dalal Darwich

Arqaam Capital Research Offshore S.A.L. - Research Analyst

* Hassan Abdelgelil

CI Capital Research - Analyst

* Hettish Kumar Karmani

Ubhar Capital SAOC, Research Division - Head of Research

* Joice Mathew

United Securities LLC, Research Division - Senior Manager of Research & Research Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Q4 2019 full year conference call. (Operator Instructions) I must advise you the call is recorded today, Wednesday, the 4th of March 2020. And I would now like to hand the conference over to your speaker today, Mr. Ahmed Al Khu. Please go ahead.

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Ahmed Al Khuzairi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - Investor Relation Manager [2]

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Thank you. Thank you, operator. Good morning, good evening, everyone. This is Ahmed Al Khuzairi, Ooredoo Oman's Investor Relations. Thank you for joining us today to discuss our full year results for 2019.

To start today's discussion here, I am having our CFO, Mr. Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi. He will take you through the presentation. He was supposed to be joined by Ian. But due to some other engagements, he is not able to join us today.

Before we start the presentation, I would like to refer you to Slide #2 from the presentation related to the disclaimer. And today, across the discussion, we may actually refer to some future-looking statements. And these future-looking statements are based on the information available for us as of today. Our views may change if our statements of our data available for us change. So if we don't need to notify you, it is due to that change.

So to start, I will hand it now to Abdul Razzaq.

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [3]

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Good morning, and good afternoon. So I'll go directly to the Slide #3.

The revenue for the year 2019 grew by 0.7% to OMR 285.5 million compared with OMR 283.6 million in 2018. The growth was driven by higher fixed revenue and device sales. EBITDA for the year stood at OMR 157.4 million compared to OMR 154.7 million for the year 2018. EBITDA for the year is affected by adoption of IFRS 16 standards.

Net profit for 2019 was OMR 33.9 million compared with OMR 41.9 million in the same period of 2018. Net profit for 2019 includes adjustments related to royalty on fixed revenue. Total number of customers at the end of 2019 stood at 2.8 million customers.

Page #4, market. Overall market changed slightly, stood at 137%. Overall, there was a drop. We had a slight dip in the mobile market. But we continue to grow in the fixed market.

Slide #5. The fixed services customer base increased by 15.2% to 169,000 customers at the end of 2019 compared to 146,000 customers at the end of 2018. The mobile postpaid customer base grew by 17.7% to 279,000 customers at end of 2019 compared to 238,000 customers at the end of 2018. The mobile prepaid customer base decreased by 8.2% to 2.4 million customers at the end of 2019 compared to 2.6 million customers at the end of 2018.

Page #6. Our network continues to remain at acceptable level and at the higher level in terms of populations. 2G remained at 99%, 3G at 98% and 4G LTE population remained at 97% and the Fast HBB at 88%. 90 additional 4G LTE sites with different carriers, they came on-air by Q4 2019. That increased the LTE coverage to 97%. Fast broadband rollouts and upgrades continued in Q4 2019 with 17 new coverage sites and 61 sites upgraded to massive MIMO to realign with 5G. 5G network preparation is well progressing, including live proof of concept of network.

Page #7, achievements and offers. Ooredoo has been named Oman's best in test operator by P3, the global leader in benchmarking and testing for mobile networks. Ooredoo signed the strategic agreement with Oman Tower Company for network. Ooredoo also received coveted Best Corporate Brand Award from the Middle East, North Africa & Asia Award Organization, MENAA.

Our Chief Executive Officer, Ian Dench, was also ranked 24th among the Top 50 International CEOs Heading Local Companies by Forbes Middle East. Ooredoo gave also low installment rates on the latest smartphones with popular Shahry plans. Ooredoo wins also Sultan Qaboos Award for Voluntary Work.

Page #8, the awards. So we'll go now directly to the Page 9. So as you can see, the revenue growth in Q4 2019 as well for the year 2019 is driven by fixed service growth and handset sales. Q4 2019 operating expenses has increased compared with Q4 2018 due to an increase of equipment costs, driven by handset sales. 2019 operating expenses has increased due to equipment cost, partially offset by lower rentals due to implementation of IFRS 16 standard as well as lower interconnection charges, driven by lower traffic and reduction of national interconnect rates.

Page #11, selling and general and administrative expenses. SG&A has decreased in Q4 2019 and year 2000 (sic) [2019] compared with Q4 2018, respectively, due to a reduction in employee-related costs and reduction of admin rental expenses, mainly driven by implementation of IFRS 16.

Page #12. Q4 2019 EBITDA was impacted by higher operating costs. 2019 EBITDA was affected positively by the implementation of IFRS 16. Operating cash flow is lower due to lower income. CapEx spend growth driven by acquisition of 5G spectrum.

Net debt. The company has a very low gearing with continuous management of working capital, helps us in managing the leverage and repayment of the RCF on a timely basis.

In conclusion, net profit -- to Page #15. Yes. So in summary, revenue growth is driven by higher fixed revenue and device sales. Fixed customer base, up by 15.2% for 2019 compared with 2018. Commercial and operational summary data represents 63% of overall revenue. As the Sultanate's data experience leader, we have continued to make sure our customers can enjoy the Internet through our great network, an awesome apps led by digital experience and innovations. We expanded into financial services bringing a fast, simple and secure way to make payments with the Pay+ in collaboration with National Bank of Oman. Customers also benefited from better access to device through our eShop, which saw unprecedented growth for online sales.

So this was the end of my presentation. Thank you very much.

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Ahmed Al Khuzairi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - Investor Relation Manager [4]

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Thank you. Thank you, Abdul Razzaq, and thank you all for listening. And operator, please, could you remind the participants how to ask questions?

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) We have some questions coming through. And the first question today comes from the line of Hassan Abdelgelil.

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Hassan Abdelgelil, CI Capital Research - Analyst [2]

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Basically, I have three questions. The first is related to Pay+. Can you please give us more light on the Pay+ service? Is it a wallet? Is it just an app where you can settle the bills? Can you settle out other bills other than the Ooredoo bills?

The second question, related to the growth in the MVNOs witnessed over the past, I will say, 3 quarters in terms of market share. And the third question is related to the operating expenses, the increase that we -- I didn't catch the reason you said when you were talking about operating expenses for the year and for Q4.

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [3]

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Okay. Regarding the Pay+, we have actually partnered with National Bank of Oman. Initially, we started the basic services like a tap-on. On the online shops, they can go and have credit in their Pay+ and...

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Hassan Abdelgelil, CI Capital Research - Analyst [4]

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Abdul Razzaq, if it's possible, can you speak closer to the mic, please? The echo is really distracting.

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [5]

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Sorry for that. Yes. Okay. So I was talking about the Pay+. Okay. I was talking about the base Pay+. So Pay+, we have partnered with National Bank of Oman. Initially, we started some basic services and we gave also some promotions to the customer to basically increase the app download. So the initial services will only have basically shop retail -- as a retail service. But in parallel, we are working now to basically to -- with a couple of companies where the customer can transfer funds to outside Oman, so like remittances. So we are working on that. That's the second phase. And that's the main target of Pay+ as well. And your second question...

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Hassan Abdelgelil, CI Capital Research - Analyst [6]

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Just to get this clear. So I can use the app to settle to other websites and other, for example, utility bills and so?

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [7]

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Sorry, can you repeat what you said?

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Hassan Abdelgelil, CI Capital Research - Analyst [8]

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Yes, when you said basic services, the bill feature that the app offers now, do they include settling bills, settling utility bills and having -- making online purchases, for example, making online purchases?

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [9]

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No. For settling bills, actually they can use the -- we have our own app. They can do all these settling the bills and downloading their bills, they can do it in our Ooredoo direct app, consumer app. So this is mainly to -- for retail shopping plus remittances. That's the Pay+ main services would be.

Yes. In terms of MVNO -- yes. So in terms of MVNO, I think there is a progress. We were slow a little bit, I think, in 2019. We were a little bit slow in launching MVNO, I think. But it took over in July and started increasing actually. So we have already reached around maybe OMR 700,000, roughly, I would say, in terms of revenue.

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Hassan Abdelgelil, CI Capital Research - Analyst [10]

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Okay. And the last reason behind -- my last question regarding the operating expenses increase in Q4?

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [11]

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Yes. It is mainly driven by the -- actually by the equipment cost and the device handset sales, the increased of handset sales.

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Operator [12]

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Your next question comes from the line of Hettish Kumar.

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Hettish Kumar Karmani, Ubhar Capital SAOC, Research Division - Head of Research [13]

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I have two questions. First is your CapEx guidance for year 2020 and onwards. And your call on the third operator, as the rumors in the market that there are some delays in the third operator, if you can shed some light on this.

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [14]

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Yes. So the CapEx actually has slightly gone up mainly because of the -- actually 5G spectrum. And we will remain -- we will manage -- basically, we'll manage the same ratio for the next year as well. Yes, we're trying to maintain the same level. So it won't go beyond that range. In terms of third operator, actually we have not seen much actually. So -- but we have our own plans. But we have not seen any shout or any active actually activities where we can -- so I don't see -- I feel it's still going slow, actually.

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Hettish Kumar Karmani, Ubhar Capital SAOC, Research Division - Head of Research [15]

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Right. If I may ask one more quick question that -- is it true that the existing operators have been told not to come up with any new packages or something post March 2020?

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [16]

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No, I'm not aware of that.

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Hettish Kumar Karmani, Ubhar Capital SAOC, Research Division - Head of Research [17]

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Another market (inaudible) actually.

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [18]

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Yes. I said we don't have that. And market is also it's very well regulated actually by TRA. So I'm sure it will follow the regulation.

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Ahmed Al Khuzairi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - Investor Relation Manager [19]

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And we don't think that they will allow for any price war because it will not be benefited for the industry in general. So existing [packs] either by us or by competition is actually being reviewed, approved by the TRA prior to the launch. And maybe you saw a recent, I mean, like guidelines from the TRA regarding some kind of offer recently by the operator, especially about the unlimited data. So we are [having] like a fair and very good regulation by the TRA.

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Operator [20]

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Your next question comes from the line of Joice Mathew.

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Joice Mathew, United Securities LLC, Research Division - Senior Manager of Research & Research Analyst [21]

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I have a few questions regarding one is on the number of private customers you have onboarded FRiENDi. As you just mentioned that you had around 700,000 new additions to the overall customer base, if I heard it correct. But still, we are seeing a decline in numbers, 8% fall in customer numbers. Can you explain why this is happening in the -- you said the overall market has shrinked but not to the same extent. But despite addition of FRiENDi mobile customers, now your number is going down. So can you throw some light on that? And the next question is there has been an equipment write-off of around $100 million last year. If you can throw some light and explain what was it related to, that could be appreciated, much appreciated. The third one is on...

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Ahmed Al Khuzairi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - Investor Relation Manager [22]

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Can you repeat the second question? Can you repeat your questions?

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Joice Mathew, United Securities LLC, Research Division - Senior Manager of Research & Research Analyst [23]

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Yes, sure. The first one is on the shrinkage in the number of mobile customers. You onboarded FRiENDi with around 700,000 customers, but still your overall number of customers are going down. So can you explain the reason for that? Then the second one is on the equipment write-off that has happened last year of around $100 million. So what was it related to? And how often this can happen in the future? And the third question is on some details. Can you give us some more details about your agreement that you have entered with the Oman Tower Company? And if possible, can you share your thoughts on monetization of your tower assets, at least in the short to medium term?

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [24]

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Yes. Okay. So in terms of the MVNO FRiENDi, I just want to clear that the number I referred to was not referring to numbers of the customers actually. Total -- yes, total subscription is 406,000 customers. So in terms of prepaid actually challenges, I think it's very obvious that because of the current market conditions now, I mean because it depends mostly on the blue collars and because of slowdown actually in the economy, this has impacted the prepaid, actually.

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Ahmed Al Khuzairi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - Investor Relation Manager [25]

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And you can see the penetration as well on the market if you compare it like a quarter or 2 quarters ago, we can see like a decline on the penetration of the market. So because of that, we can feel a lot of pressure. But it's being compensated by the postpaid. Actually, we have now some offers for our customers to lock them for like a contract with 1 or 2 years.

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Joice Mathew, United Securities LLC, Research Division - Senior Manager of Research & Research Analyst [26]

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Okay. And agreements with the OTC?

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [27]

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Yes. We have actually just signed a memorandum of understanding with OTC, basically how we -- it's regarding the towers, actually. So it's just a memorandum of understanding how the towers will operate and how we -- in the long term. And so it's still at a very initial stage. We don't have much details I can say at this moment.

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Joice Mathew, United Securities LLC, Research Division - Senior Manager of Research & Research Analyst [28]

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Okay. But the monetization will be there in the longer term. Is that what you are -- what you mean?

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [29]

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Yes.

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Joice Mathew, United Securities LLC, Research Division - Senior Manager of Research & Research Analyst [30]

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Okay. And regarding the equipment write-off?

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [31]

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The write-off, okay. I think it was a one-off.

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Ahmed Al Khuzairi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - Investor Relation Manager [32]

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Write-off, it's one-off write-off for the equipment actually on the old (inaudible). And that will be one-off.

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [33]

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Yes. One-off write-off of the old equipment.

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Joice Mathew, United Securities LLC, Research Division - Senior Manager of Research & Research Analyst [34]

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Okay. So these are fully depreciated assets, right?

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [35]

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Yes, correct, yes.

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Joice Mathew, United Securities LLC, Research Division - Senior Manager of Research & Research Analyst [36]

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Okay. One more question that I have is on your license fees. So you are supposed to pay half of the license fees this year. And did you get -- the other operator, Omantel, got an extension or deferred installments for payment of the fees. Did you get any kind of installment?

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [37]

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Yes, it's the same agreement for both operators.

So the flexibility of the parents...

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Ahmed Al Khuzairi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - Investor Relation Manager [38]

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But Omantel agreed [they said] they want to pay in quarter, but we selected to pay on an annual basis. The first tranche of the payment, which is equal to OMR 37.5 million, is already paid for the government and the next (inaudible) will be paid by 2021.

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Joice Mathew, United Securities LLC, Research Division - Senior Manager of Research & Research Analyst [39]

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Okay. So you will pay then 2 installments while Omantel will be paying it in 4 installments?

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [40]

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Yes.

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Ahmed Al Khuzairi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - Investor Relation Manager [41]

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Yes.

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Joice Mathew, United Securities LLC, Research Division - Senior Manager of Research & Research Analyst [42]

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Okay. And can you give some guidance on the strategy for the 5G implementation. Will it be happening this year? Or what's the road map?

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [43]

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Yes. The plan is to do it this year, actually. So we are working on the proof-of-concept. Initially, we'll not have a big CapEx on that. But the plan is to do start the proof-of-concept this year and then move forward later on. Yes.

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Joice Mathew, United Securities LLC, Research Division - Senior Manager of Research & Research Analyst [44]

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So several geographic areas that you are targeting that. But I can see that you have added some massive MIMO, 67 sites in this year -- last year in 2019, so...

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [45]

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Yes. So wherever we have actually launched massive MIMO, so the focus area will remain on the same on 5G as well.

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Operator [46]

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Your next question comes from the line of Dalal Darwich.

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Dalal Darwich, Arqaam Capital Research Offshore S.A.L. - Research Analyst [47]

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I just have a couple of questions from my end. The first one is on the revenue. So if you can just shed some light on the reason behind the decline in other revenues both in Q4 and FY. And on that, I have a small clarification. So you said that the growth is driven partially by handset sales so that the growth in handset sales is part of the growth in postpaid since other revenues are down. So that's one thing. And the other one, just if I heard correctly, the FRiENDi MVNO adds around 400,000 customers to your prepaid subscribers.

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Ahmed Al Khuzairi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - Investor Relation Manager [48]

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Okay. So I will start with the second question, which is about the handset. Yes, the whole revenue of the handset is added to the postpaid. So because of that, you can see a growth on the postpaid. And this will be on a contractual basis between us and the customer. The good thing that we have now a direction from our end to happen to buy their devices. So because of that, the supply is always there. And our customers, they like the offer that has been added to the devices. So because of that, you can see actually the pickup on the numbers of postpaid customers.

Regarding the FRiENDi mobile, yes, you are right. The number of customers is exactly around 406,000 customers by the end of 2019 we added successfully to our network.

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [49]

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Okay. So what was your last question? Can you repeat?

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Dalal Darwich, Arqaam Capital Research Offshore S.A.L. - Research Analyst [50]

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It was on the decline in other revenue. So what is it driven by?

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [51]

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Yes. So basically, the other revenues are mostly related to the mobile actually, mobile market, value-added services like these revenues actually.

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Operator [52]

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Your next question comes from the line of Hassan Abdelgelil.

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Hassan Abdelgelil, CI Capital Research - Analyst [53]

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Please, I didn't hear what you're saying about the agreement with the OTC and the road map on the 5G. Can you please repeat your answers? And please, please, can you speak closer to the mic? Because I can't really hear anything you're saying.

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [54]

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Okay. As I said earlier, regarding OTC, we just signed an MoU to basically discuss and agree way forward. We basically agree a deal in terms of whether if we release a [lease agreement] or it will be a takeover. So it depends on what strategy would be at the end. So it's just a memorandum of understanding signed between us, is to agree in the way forward how to manage it. Yes, exactly.

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Hassan Abdelgelil, CI Capital Research - Analyst [55]

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I'm sorry, I can't hear anything, I'll just call back right after the call.

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Abdul Razzaq Al Balushi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - CFO [56]

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Okay. Yes, we can -- I think there's a echo also from your side as well. So maybe we can have a one-to-one call later, and I can give you on these specific questions.

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Ahmed Al Khuzairi, Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG - Investor Relation Manager [57]

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Okay. We'll wrap the call. Thank you. As there are no more questions and inquiries, we would like to thank you for joining us today on this conference. And we would like to refer you to our public filings and also to our website. Thank you all, and have a good day.

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Operator [58]

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Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude your conference for today. Thank you all for participating, and you may now disconnect.