Hutchison beats revenue forecast, cagey about spectrum auction

Hutchison Telecommunications, with close to $600 million at stake in the current 1.8GHz spectrum auction, on Monday reported annual profits of $2.3 million for 1999.

Annual revenue for the organisation was $329.6 million, slightly higher than the Prospectus 99 forecast of $324.5 million, said Barry Roberts-Thomson, Hutchison's managing director. "We ended 1999 in a very sound position."

Growth in Hutchison's mobile resale business, which contributed 86 per cent of revenue, was a significant driver in the improved performance, Roberts-Thomson said.

Subscribers to the resale business grew by 31 per cent to 250,894, with most customers signing up for the Orange GSM service, he said.

Roberts-Thomson would not release sales or subscriber figures for the recently launched wireless local telephony service, Orange One, but said: "Hutchison is very optimistic about the potential of this service."

The network is performing, sales are on the rise and there has been encouraging feedback from subscribers, he said, adding that the service is expected to attract 400,000 subscribers by 2002.

Roberts-Thomson said he expects Orange One, which was launched in December, to be operating at full capacity by mid year in preparation for the launch of Hutchison's yet-to-be-detailed WAP services.

On a less positive note, Hutchison reported a decline in its paging and messaging service, but Roberts-Thomson claimed the figures are in line with expectations and market trends and Hutchison expects to gain new subscribers later this year following the closure of Telstra's paging network in June.

Meanwhile, Roberts-Thomson dodged questions regarding the hotly contested 1.8GHz spectrum auction currently underway. Hutchison, One.Tel, Optus, Telstra and Vodafone are locked in a bidding war to acquire spectrum in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

On Monday night, Hutchison had laid more than $600 million on the auction table for the spectrum which is expected to be used for mobile services. "We're not talking in detail about the spectrum while the auction is in progress," Roberts-Thomson said. "The spectrum will not be available until 2002, so we are not looking at opportunities for the next two years."

Roberts-Thomson refused to answer questions regarding possible partnerships that Hutchison is rumoured to have formed in order to acquire spectrum, but said the company did have support from its parent company, Hutchison Whampoa.

Total bidding for the spectrum reached over $900 million yesterday.

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