BTC not at Liberty’s top as revenue rise flattens

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) was not among its ultimate parent’s best Caribbean performers during the 2022 second quarter as revenues flat-lined against prior year comparatives.

Chris Noyes, Liberty Latin America’s (LiLAC) chief financial officer, told the group’s half-year conference call with investment analysts that “our strongest revenue performers in the quarter.... were the markets of Jamaica, Barbados and the Cayman Islands”.

The Bahamas, and BTC, did not make the cut as revenue growth slowed to just 1.5 percent year-over-year for the three months to end-June 2022. BTC’s revenues rose by just $700,000 against 2021 comparatives, hitting $48.4m for the period as opposed to $47.7m in the prior year period.

The weaker second quarter performance also trimmed the 2022 half-year top-line increase to 3.7 percent or $3.4m, as total revenues for the six months to end-June hit $96.1m compared to $92.7m for the same period in 2021. The June quarter was thus far softer than the three months to end-March, when top-line revenues grew by 6 percent year-over-year to hit $47.7m.

It is too early, though, to write-off BTC’s slow but steady recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as one quarter does not make a trend although the declining rate of top-line growth will bear watching. The results were released just weeks after it was announced that Andre Foster, BTC’s chief executive, is stepping down from the company with a replacement yet to be named.

BTC’s subscriber numbers, meanwhile, remained relatively flat. However, it did lose 600 post-paid mobile subscribers during the three months to end-June 2022, despite targeting this segment as a more lucrative and consistent source of revenue earnings. While it did gain 300 pre-paid subscribers, this still represents a quarterly net loss of 300 mobile customers.

BTC remains locked in fierce competition with its Aliv rival, and it ended the 2022 first half with some 173,200 mobile subscribers split between 31,500 post-paid customers and 141,700 pre-paid clients. Elsewhere, though, BTC gained a net 400 subscribers or revenue generating units (RGUs) in its fixed-line businesses, bolstered largely by an 800 gain on broadband Internet. Fixed-line phone subscribers, though, fell by 400.

At end-June 2022, BTC had 73,00 fixed-line revenue generating units split between 31,500 broadband Internet customers and 31,900 fixed-line voice subscribers, with 9,600 video/TV clients making up the balance. This follows modest fixed line subscriber gains during the 2022 first quarter.

While the carrier added 200 TV, and 700 Internet, customers over that period, this was largely negated by the loss of 700 fixed-line telephone subscribers. All in all, BTC lost 1,400 fixed-line “customer relationships”. This continued the trend set late last year, when BTC lost 2,900 “revenue generating units” or customer relationships during the 2021 fourth quarter. Then, Internet and TV subscribers declined by 1,200 and 100, respectively, while fixed-line voice fell by some 1,600.

Mr Foster told Tribune Business in an interview earlier this year that BTC planned “to become a real attacker” in the battle for market share with ambitions to build-out its new network by end-2023. He pledged that all subscribers across The Bahamas will enjoy faster, better quality broadband Internet and TV services when it completes the transition from its legacy copper infrastructure to fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) within the next 17 months.