Wharf T&T restructures business

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 March, 2006, 12:00am

Wharf T&T has transferred some of its fixed-line businesses to two subsidiaries and absorbed the information-technology arm of its ultimate parent company.

The company announced the restructuring, aimed at better serving the telecommunications needs of the commercial sector, as it reported yesterday its operating profit surged 89 per cent to a record $104 million last year.

Apart from acquiring COL, the 11-year-old information-technology services arm of Wheelock, Wharf T&T transferred its residential fixed-line business to i-Cable Telecom and its international direct dialling business to EC Telecom.

Wheelock is the parent firm of Wharf (Holdings), which in turn controls private telecommunications arm Wharf T&T.

'The restructuring is a response to the current market competition. We believe the current model is the most efficient operating model,' chairman Stephen Ng Tin-hoi said.

The company wants to focus on the commercial sector after sales from its business clients contributed about 70 per cent of its $1.48 billion revenue last year.

Its fixed-line installations grew 10 per cent to 523,000 lines, or 13 per cent of the market. By way of comparison, rival Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) had installed 294,000 lines as of August last year. HKBN's listed parent company City Telecom fell into a net loss of $206.4 million for the year to August.

Having operated in the city for 10 years, Wharf had racked up losses totalling $1.5 billion before making profits in 2003.

The company attributed part of its robust growth to a drop in depreciation charges.

Vincent Ma, executive director of the commercial division, voiced optimism that the COL integration would drive the company's growth.

He noted that the technology arm's expertise in 'disaster recovery' for information-technology systems of securities houses and banks would go a long way in helping Wharf offer more comprehensive telecommunications solutions to companies.

Meanwhile, Mr Ng said he expected competition in the city's fixed-line market to intensify in the next three quarters, but said his company would not rely on price cuts to defend its market share.