• Telecom Sector Valuation Methodology

    Telecom sector is one of the most important sectors for any economy which drives the communication. Due to high cost of entry and capital expenditure there is always limited number of key players in the sector.

    There are some important Points and terms an analyst should look at while evaluating a telecom sector company. Here in this section we will discuss about the key terms and points and the key financial and operational parameters used to evaluate a telecom sector company.

    Key points about Telecom Sector

    Business Line

    There are some different business lines the telecom companies operate upon. They are mainly

    1. Mobile/Cellular
    2. Fixed Line
    3. Internet including broadband
    4. Enterpriseservices used by companies

    Some key parameters to assess the performance of a Telecom company will be discussed here.

    Average Revenue per User per month (ARPU)

    Average revenue per user per month or ARPU is the most widely used parameter to denote the revenue generated per mobile subscriber by a telecom company. This parameter is mainly used for mobile or cellular business. This is mainly calculated by dividing the total revenue generated by the total number of mobile subscribers and number of months during the reporting period.  Analysts use ARPU as the most important parameter to compare the revenue generation capability of one Telecom Company with other competitors.

    Because of recent low tariff competition, the ARPU is continuously decreasing among the telecom companies. But higher number of new subscriber addition is helping them to earn sustainable revenue from the cellular and mobile business operations.

    Subscriber Base

    As we have already said adding new subscribers is helping the telecom companies to get sustainable revenues in spite of steep cut in mobile tariff and steep fall in ARPU. The mobile companies are adding subscribers in huge numbers and there are lots of competitions among the mobile companies to increase the subscriber base.

    The new addition of subscriber base depends of the following parameters (in India and other emerging economies)

    1. Higher economic growth increases the subscriber base.
    2. Higher income level in the rural area increases the subscriber base in those areas. The rural is still having very low tele-density and it is having huge growth potential in the future.
    3. The urban population has started using multiple mobile numbers with the increasing income and feasibility. The Tele-density in the urban areas is nearly 120% which supports the same data.
    4. Lower tariff due to high competition among the mobile players has made maintaining single as well as multiple mobile connections very easy and is driving the number of subscriber base up during the recent times.

    Rise of Internet and Broadband

    Recently there has been a huge rise in the number of internet and broadband users especially in the urban areas. This is due to mainly easy availability and lower tariff on broadband internet services. After getting the 3G spectrum, all the telecom companies have launched the fast mobile internet services using the 3G spectrum.

    The increasing number of broadband and mobile internet users is helping the telecom companies to increase their revenue significantly because of high demand. The increase in demand is mainly because of

    1. The sale of Personal Computer and laptops has been increasing continuously during recent times. High selling of PCs and Laptops are increasing the demand for easy access of internet provided by the telecom companies.
    2. Internet and broadband services has become easily available in the urban areas at a very cheap price. It enables the users to opt for internet connection at home instead of going to the cyber café.
    3. Increasing number of internet mobile applications for banking, news, bill payment have increased the mobile internet subscriber base significantly.
    4. Another main reason is the increasing interest in the social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ etc. among the masses. This increasing interest makes the mobile subscribers to opt for mobile internet to access those sites all the time.

    Enterprise Services

    Enterprise Services refer to all the telecom and broadband connectivity related services offered to the companies or enterprises to make them establish the internal or cross border network of their own use. This is one of the main business and revenue generating area of the telecom companies.

    As per the service, the telecom companies provide all the network related services including broadband connectivity to other companies and help them to connect and enable data transfer within different offices across the globe. The IT services, BPO and Media industry are the major users of this enterprise services.

    High Cost of entry and continuous investment

    The telecom sector has very high entry fee because of high initial investment to build the necessary infrastructure and procure the spectrum and broadband licenses from the government. Because of the high entry fee there is small number of players in this sector and there is always some monopolistic competition is in place among them. The reason behind high initial investments include

    1. Telecom companies are required to build the initial infrastructure to start the telecom services. These infrastructures include building tower and placing underground cables to enable data and voice transfer.
    2. Before using the air spectrum to transfer data and voice, telecom companies have to procure the licenses from the Government at a very high cost. The cost depends on the frequency and the region. For a city, the spectrum price is much higher compared to a town because of high population density.
    3. Companies have to invest regularly to expand the business in different cycles and upgrade the spectrum used (from 2G to 3G etc.) to compete with the other players.
    4. Though there are less number of players in the market, there is always steep competition among the telecom companies. Steep competitions prompt them to invest heavily in sales and marketing to increase subscriber base and retain the same.
    5. Telecom sector is a very much technology intensive sector which prompts them to continuously invest in new technologies and R&D.

    Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

    To support the growth in the telecom sector, some Governments have allowed FDI in the particular sector.

    Indian Government has allowed 74% FDI in this sector after getting full approval from Department of Telecommunications (DoT). FDI up to 74% is allowed in Radio Paging Service and Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) sectors. FDI up to 100% is also allowed in some sectors like Infrastructure Providers providing dark fibre, Electronic Mail and Voice Mail.

    Key Operational and Financial Parameters

    After discussing the terms of the telecom sector, now we will discuss the key operational and financial parameters a financial analyst should check while evaluating a telecom sector company.

    Management

    As the telecom sector is very much competitive and technology oriented, the long term growth and performance depends on the Management’s vision and credibility. Formulating the right strategy at the right time is very much important to sustain the business growth here. An Analyst should check the long term vision and credibility of a telecom company while assessing its value and projecting its future growth.

    Technology Innovation

    Telecom companies operate in a monopolistic environment and the only way to beat other competitors is to innovate continuously. Innovating and launching new features and new products always help to increase the subscriber base and cut down the cost. Innovation in mobile software, added features, network connectivity helps to expand the business and accelerate the growth in future. Having IPRs, Patents increases the valuation of a telecom company.

    Scale of Operations and Presence

    As the number of subscribers depends on the scale of presence in different regions, this should be considered as an important parameter to do valuation of a telecom company. Presence in high populated circles within a country and in the emerging economies with high growth potential are considered to be important parameters while evaluating a telecom company. Telecom sector in the developed economies have almost saturated and the growth lies in the emerging economies now.

    Average Revenue per User per month (ARPU)

    As we have already discussed Average revenue per user per month or ARPU is the most widely used parameter to denote the revenue generated per mobile subscriber by a telecom company. Hence it is used as an important financial parameter to denote the efficiency of a telecom company. Higher the ARPU, more efficient the company is.

    Subscriber Growth

    As the subscriber base is the main parameter to increase the revenue, subscriber growth or net subscriber addition is also used as an important financial parameter. The net subscriber addition during a particular period is calculated after deducting the reduction in the subscriber number from the total subscriber addition during that period. The more the net subscriber addition will be, better be the revenue generation for the next period.

    Operating Profit Margins

    As the telecom companies invest heavily in sales and marketing activities, Operating Profit Margin is considered to be the main profitability ratio. Operating Profit Margin is calculated as

    Operating Profit Margin (%) = (Operating Profit /Total Revenue) * 100

    Higher Operating Profit Margin denotes better efficiency of the company in generating high profit with low sales and administrative expenses and same sales.

    Debt to Equity

    The telecom companies use to take high debt to fund the initial investment requirement which is normally very high. The initial investment requirement is funded by debt and the interest is paid from the income. So the Debt-to-Equity ratio is a key financial ratio which should be used to evaluate a telecom company. It is calculated as

    Debt-to-Equity Ratio = Total Debt /Total Shareholders’ Equity

    Lower the Debt-to-Equity, better the financial health of the company as lower debt results in lower interest payment from the profit.

    Return on Equity

    Return on Equity is also as an important financial parameter to evaluate the performance of a telecom company. This is mainly due to high equity investment. This is calculated as

    Return on Equity = Profit after Tax (PAT)/Equity or Net worth

    Higher return on equity denotes better profit realization for a telecom company.

    Valuation Ratio

    To do the valuation of a telecom company’s market share mainly the Price to Cash Flow (P/CF) price multiple is used instead of P/E ratio. The reasons behind the same

    Because of very high initial investment, depreciation is higher for the telecom companies which is a non-cash expense and manipulates the earnings. Because of this P/E ratio is not used to get the share valuation of a telecom company properly.

    Because of high initial investment, high depreciation and high capital expenditure book value cannot give the proper insight about the share valuation of a telecom company. That’s why P/BV is not used as a price multiple.

    Sales revenue can be manipulated very easily for a telecom company and it does not indicate the financial performance properly. That P/S ratio is not used to get the share valuation of a telecom company properly.

    Because of these reasons, P/CF price multiple is mainly used to get the appropriate valuation of the market share price of a telecom company.

    So P/CF is used as an important price multiple to compare the share price of a telecom company with other peer group companies. Higher P/CF ratio denotes the market share price as overvalued while the lower P/CF ratio denotes the market share price as undervalued.

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