Esat BT’s half-year turnover increased 11pc from €125m to €138m for the period up to 30 September. However the telecoms operator continues to bemoan the state of competition in the Irish marketplace.
The company reported that operating expenditure for the half year fell 12pc from €45m to €40m as a result of rigorous cost-cutting efforts. Earnings before interest, depreciation, tax and amortisation (EBIDTA) increased 9pc to reach €12m.
Turnover in the second quarter increased 25pc from €59m to €74m year-on-year and the company achieved a gross margin increase of 8pc to hit €28m in the quarter. Tom Byrne, chief financial officer for Esat BT in Ireland, said that the company managed to reduce losses by €84m during the half year. “Net loss was €29m, reduced from €113m during the same period last year.”
Marking 18 months of being in office, CEO Bill Murphy said that the competitive landscape in Ireland is still in a critical position. “Eircom is the only incumbent in Europe that is actually increasing market share,” he warned. “There is need for a more forceful and vigilant ComReg.”
Praising the efforts of the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Murphy said: “We are seeing a sea change in activity in the ICT arena and the Minister has proven himself to be pro-competition. Ever since he pushed for the introduction of FRIACO, actual computer sales in Ireland have increased. He has been very aggressive in making his feelings known on broadband.”
The Esat BT chief continued to say that there was still a need for more bold decisions to be made on communications infrastructure in Ireland. He cited initiatives in Northern Ireland such as the £100m sterling Classroom 2000 and the demand by the NI trade department to telecoms companies to come up with a 100pc broadband solution for the region.
Looking at the ESB’s plans to introduce broadband services, Murphy said that he had reservations about the situation and felt that it was another case of a State-funded monopoly starting up. “Make them private and let them see the realities of raising funds,” he said.
Esat BT invested €60m this year and €40m last year in rolling out broadband services and the company will have significant plans for 2004, Murphy said. In terms of new products, Esat BT will be looking at fixed-line wireless broadband products as well as IP phones that work within Wi-Fi networks. “With 50 Wi-Fi hotspots live right now, we will have 100 live by the end of this year,” Murphy added.
By John Kennedy