Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Underdog’ mobile telco Smart turns leading player in 14 years

‘Underdog’ mobile telco Smart turns leading player in 14 years

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In 2021, Smart invested $81 million in the Kingdom’s development, pitched in with $103 million to public finances, and contributed $416 million in gross value added (GVA) to the economy. POST STAFF

‘Underdog’ mobile telco Smart turns leading player in 14 years

Prominent mobile operator Smart Axiata Co Ltd, which debuted in February 2009 as telecoms “underdog” Smart Mobile, recently marked its 14th anniversary, according to a March 13 statement from the company.

In 2021, Smart invested $81 million in the Kingdom’s development, pitched in with $103 million to public finances, and contributed $416 million in gross value added (GVA) to the economy as well as supported 51,700 jobs nationwide directly and indirectly, with Cambodians comprising 97.6 per cent of the workforce, the statement said.

An earlier press release from the company noted that its GVA contribution that year represented 1.6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), using an estimate for the 2021 GDP figure in the range of $25.181-26.871 billion.

“Solar energy was deployed at 615 base stations as of the end of 2021, a significant [175.78 per cent] increase on the 223 sites the year before. The company plans to adapt its other base stations around the country to utilise solar power in the future too,” the March 13 statement said.

“Smart was the first mobile operator in Cambodia to provide 4G services, including 4G LTE, and it is now available across [Phnom Penh and the 24 provinces]. The company was also the first in the Kingdom to trial 5G back in 2019.

“The company also annually contributes two per cent of its revenue to the Universal Service Obligation Fund [USOF] to improve telecommunication infrastructure and digital inclusivity and one per cent of its revenue to the Capacity Building, Research and Development Fund [CBRD] to implement capacity-building and digital literacy programs in the Kingdom,” it added.

The statement did not provide any figures for 2022 or later.

Axiata Group

It recapped that company completed a merger with Malaysian-owned Hello Axiata Co Ltd in early 2013, becoming part of the Kuala Lumpur-listed Axiata Group, which has “150 million subscribers across 11 countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia”.

Axiata Group notes on its website that, “in 2008, we started with 40 million customers”, adding that its network covers Malaysia and Cambodia, as well as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The Ministry of Commerce’s business registry shows that Smart was incorporated on September 9, 2008.


Speaking in the statement, Smart CEO Ziad Shatara commented that his company “has always worked tirelessly to improve, innovate and provide value to our customers, dealers, business partners and stakeholders. We maintain our values as a socially responsible business through our excellent performance, uncompromising integrity and transparency.

“Taking encouragement from our consistent success, we continue to work hard to ensure lasting and sustainable change together with the Royal Government of Cambodia and key stakeholders in the Kingdom.

“We are incredibly proud to have helped build important parts of the Kingdom’s economic and social infrastructure, as well as to have made a difference to people’s lives nationwide.

“In order to assist in the Kingdom’s efforts to create sustainable change towards a digital economy and society, Smart remains committed to connecting people and making life better for everyone. Smart will continue to work with the Royal Government of Cambodia and our stakeholders to deliver sustainable development,” he said.

On the Bursa Malaysia, Axiata Group Bhd’s share price fell 0.07 ringgit or 2.32 per cent to close at 2.95 ringgit on March 14 for a market capitalisation of 28.45 billion ringgit ($6.34 billion) and 52-week range of 2.35-3.88 ringgit, with 3.865 million shares traded or 111.66 per cent of the 65-day average of 3.462 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

For the quarter ended December 31, the Malaysian firm reported sales/revenue of 5.835 billion ringgit, down 19.63 per cent quarter-on-quarter; EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) of 2.562 billion ringgit, down 19.40 per cent; net loss of 4.019 billion ringgit, growing 7,570.40 per cent on a quarterly basis; and total assets of 81.635 billion ringgit, down 0.83 per cent, the news outlet indicated.


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