Insurance cuts Aliv's Dorian cost to $2.5m

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Damian Blackburn

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Aliv’s subscriber base grew by 20 percent during the final six months of 2019, its top executive revealed yesterday, after the mobile operator shrugged off $2.5m in one-off net Dorian costs.

Damian Blackburn told Tribune Business it had “recovered about 75-80 percent” of its $6m network repair costs following settlement of its insurance claim. This, together with $1m-$1.5m in “exceptional costs”, lowered the total Dorian outlay from its own pocket to around $2.5m.

Disclosing that Aliv’s customer base now stands at 180,000, he added that this growth - and Aliv’s positive operating income (earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation or EBITDA) for the Christmas quarter - had been achieved notwithstanding the category five storm’s impact on Abaco and Grand Bahama.

“We’re now over 180,000 customers. We’ve had significant growth during the first half of the year,” Mr Blackburn said. “On the subscriber base, I think our market share is well into the 40 percent range - approximately mid-40s. Revenue lags that, so we’re probably in the low-40s there.

“We also achieved our goal in the financial year’s second quarter, the Christmas quarter, for being EBITDA positive. We would have been EBITDA positive for the whole of the first half of the year but we did absorb some exceptional costs related to the hurricane that meant it was flat for those six months.”

Aliv’s financial year starts on July 1, and Mr Blackburn said its financial performance had rebounded quickly from Dorian’s effects. “We settled our insurance and we recovered about 75-80 percent of our capital from the network side of it,” he told Tribune Business. “It was $6m on network repairs, and $1m to $1.5m of exceptionals.

“We were prepared in terms of insurance and settled it quickly. We’ve moved on from that and it’s kind of behind us. We did have some other exceptional costs, costs relating to the disruption of our operations, so Dorian probably cost us $2.5m net of insurance.”

Mr Blackburn said Aliv was still working to restore its network to pre-Dorian condition on the two affected islands, as it was still running off back-up power and some temporary sites in Abaco. “We’re making good progress, and by the time the next hurricane season comes around we’re confident we’ll have everything back to where it was,” he added.

“The customer knows the network has been fully restored since September. It’s just the infrastructure we’re using that we want to replace - the likes of temporary towers and back-up power.”

The Aliv chief added that all bar three New Providence sites had been restored, with those also expected to be operational by press time, following a day-and-a-half long fibre break caused by a car accident in the Carmichael area.

This incident, which initially impacted 18 Aliv tower locations when it occurred at 11pm on Sunday night, was described as “very unusual” because it had cut the fibre-optic infrastructure the mobile provider relies on in three places instead of one.

Mr Blackburn said microwave back-up had restored five sites immediately, meaning that connection to 13 locations had been lost in south-west New Providence. He added that one fibre break was restored by 7.30am on Monday morning, and a second by midday, but the third and final cut proved more difficult and time consuming to fox.

“Unfortunately when we examined the damage on that third break we realised we needed to replace a significant amount of fibre; we couldn’t join it together. We had to pull more fibre,” Mr Blackburn explained.

He added that all but six towers had been reconnected by 1am yesterday morning, with those impacted being “capacity towers” that did not affect service quality and coverage for customers. ‘“The coverage was largely restored by 1am on Tuesday morning,” Mr Blackburn said.