The Korea Herald


KT’s operating profit tumbles in Q4

Annual sales rise to record-high

By KH디지털뉴스부공용

Published : Feb. 1, 2013 - 09:14

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The fourth-quarter operating profit of KT, the country’s second-largest mobile carrier, tumbled as much as 76 percent compared to the same period in the previous year due to increased facility spending and slower sales in fixed-line services.

The company said that it recorded 51 billion won ($46.5 million) in operating profit and 93.6 billion won in net profit in the October-December 2012 period -- down nearly 55 percent from the final quarter of 2011. Quarterly sales, however, edged up by 3.6 percent from a year earlier to 6.2 trillion won.

Experts said the massive investment that KT had injected into the fourth-generation communications network Long Term Evolution facilities was the chief culprit behind the loss.

“The firm was the last player to introduce LTE services and has the smallest share in the related market, so the profit figure for the first half of this year will remain sluggish,” said Park Jong-soo, a senior analyst at Hanwha Securities.

Hwang Sung-jin, an analyst at HMC Investment Securities, agreed that the LTE marketing expenses have and will further become a major risk factor for future KT businesses. 

KT, which also stands as the nation’s top fixed-line service provider, was the last among the three telecoms to launch nationwide LTE services last year. The competition, led by LG Uplus, has been getting fiercer with KT still struggling to gain a bigger share of the LTE market.

KT officials said the poor performance was mainly due to seasonal factors, such as expenses and investment that tend to be focused in the fourth quarter.   

The company invested 1.5 trillion won of its 3.7 trillion won capital expenditures last year for the nationwide LTE coverage as well as adopting multi-carrier technology.

KT’s LTE subscriber base stood at 3.9 million as of the end of 2012, lagging behind industrial leader SK Telecom and No. 3 player LG Uplus.

But the analysts said the profit figures for the company will improve as early as the first quarter of this year with the business suspension scheduled for Feb. 22-March 13. The firm will be banned from conducting marketing activities to lure new customers during this period.

“The business suspension indicates that the profit figure will not be so bad in the first quarter of this year,” said Hwang.

Park, on the other hand, said that the figures will most likely improve in the latter half of this year due to continuous LTE marketing in the first half.

“I believe KT will work its way to beat its rival LG Uplus in LTE services for it has a larger market share of 31 percent compared to LG Uplus’ 19 percent,” he said. “It will be done slowly but the firm will turn around.”

By Cho Ji-hyun

<관련 한글기사> 

KT, 지금은 LTE때문에 울지만...

KT의 지난 4분기 성적표가 암울하다.

KT는 4분기 영업이익이 지난 해 동기 대비 76.6% 감소한 510억원이었으며, 순이익은 54.8% 줄어든 936억원을 기록했다고 1일 밝혔다.

유선 매출 하락과 계절성 인건비, 주파수 이용료 등 일시적 비용 증가의 영향과 함께 LTE서비스에 대한 투자 확대가 비용을 증가시킨 주요 원인으로 꼽히고 있다.

지난 해 KT의 LTE 투자비용은 1조 5000억원으로 총 투자비용인 3조 7106억원의 절반 가까이 차지한다.

박종수 한화투자증권 애널리스트는 “올해 흐름은 LTE를 놓고 보면 경쟁사 대비 늦게 시작했고 시장점유율도 낮기 때문에 상반기까지는 LTE 가입자로 LG유플러스를 역전 하려고 할 것”이라며 “상반기까지는 LTE 마케팅을 하며 실적은 안 좋을 것”이라고 말했다.

하지만 “하반기부터 실적이 개선되는 모습이 확연히 나온다”고 덧붙였다.
황성진 HMC 투자증권 연구원은 “올해 1분기 같은 경우는 영업정지가 있으니 숫자가 나쁘지는 않을 것”이라며 “1분기에 어느 정도 턴어라운드는 가능할 것”이라고 예측했다.

그러나 LTE 시장 경쟁이 어떻게 진행되는지에 따라 실적 변동성이 생길 수 있다며, 시장 향방을 큰 리스크 요인으로 주목했다. (코리아헤럴드 조지현기자)