GrameenPhone (GP) added a net 1.3 million new subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2009, up from 160,000 in the same period of 2008, to take its total mobile user base to 23.3 million and retain its clear leading position in the Bangladeshi cellular sector. The Telenor subsidiary claimed that the quarterly growth gave it a 44.4% share of the country’s mobile market at the end of 2009, whilst it attributed the rise in its take-up rate to its decision to introduce lower start-up prices by subsidising the SIM card tax. In a statement, GP complained that the SIM tax ‘continues to be a significant bane for the industry and a barrier for [cellular] penetration in the country’, adding that subscriptions spiked each time the company opted to subsidise the levy.
GP’s revenues, excluding one-time payment of interconnection arrears, increased by 2.6% year-on-year in the three months ended 31 December 2009 to BDT16.75 billion (USD247 million), mainly led by an increase in subscription volumes as well as tariff revisions. Blended monthly ARPU in October-December decreased from BDT268 in 2008 to BDT244 in 2009, largely due to reduced interconnection rates (adopted on 26 March 2009), alongside ‘intake of new subscriptions from the financially constrained segment.’ EBITDA margin in Q4 2009 stood at 52.6%, down from 59.6% in the last quarter of 2008, mostly because of higher subscription acquisition costs. The GSM operator’s 4Q net profit – adjusted for one-off items – stood at BDT2.35 billion. Following GP’s recent initial public offering (IPO) its shares are held by Telenor (55.8%), Grameen Telecom (34.2%) and other investors, both public and institutional (10.0%).