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SingTel Keeps Outlook as Profit Meets Forecast

SingTel, Southeast Asia's largest phone firm, reported a 3.3 percent rise in quarterly profit, broadly in line with expectations, and kept its full-year forecast as its key emerging markets
businesses continued to grow.

However, its Optus unit, Australia's second-largest mobile operator, reported a 5.6 percent decline in underlying net profit to A$123 million (US$114 million) despite a 3.7 percent increase in operating revenue to A$1.93 billion.

Singapore Telecommunications Chief Executive Chua Sock Koong has previously said she expects higher sales from a surge in mobile phone and broadband subscriptions, and a strong performance in Singapore, SingTel's home market.

Singtel raised its sales growth guidance in August to more than 5 percent as strong economic growth in Singapore boosted demand from corporate customers. Singapore had been viewed as a low-growth market.

State-controlled SingTel -- Singapore's largest listed company -- reported July-September attributable net profit of S$988 million ($683 million) compared with S$956 million last year and compared to an average net profit forecast of S$997 million from three analysts surveyed by Reuters.

SingTel posted underlying net profit, before goodwill and exceptionals, of S$914 million in the quarter, versus S$815 million a year ago.

Operating revenue in the quarter climbed 11 percent to S$3.7 billion, while operational EBITDA rose 3 percent to S$1.12 billion.

SingTel shares rose 18 percent in the July-Sept quarter, and have gained a third in value so far this year, just above a 30 percent rise in the benchmark Straits Times Index.

Facing a home market of just 4.7 million people, where mobile penetration has reached 100 percent, SingTel has spent S$18 billion in recent years buying stakes in operators in high-growth Asian nations, and in the bigger Australian market.

SingTel now derives about 75 percent of revenues and two-thirds of pre-tax earnings from operations outside Singapore.

It owns Australia's No 2 mobile operator Optus and major stakes in six emerging market operators, including India's Bharti Airtel, Globe Telecom in the Philippines, and Indonesia's Telkomsel.

Most of these investments have shown phenomenal growth in wireless subscribers in recent years. Bharti, India's top mobile services firm, last week beat forecasts with a 73 percent rise in quarterly profit, as its user base surged in the world's fastest growing mobile market.

Optus has been grappling with ebbing subscriber growth and regulatory changes in a saturated domestic market.

But Optus Mobile which holds a third of the Australian market, is SingTel's single-biggest revenue generator. It competes with Telstra Corp, Vodafone Group and Hutchison Telecommunications (Australia).