Arqiva, the UK’s largest independent towers company and communications infrastructure group, has announced record revenues and EBITDA for the half year to December 31st 2016. Revenue was up 10 per cent to £466 million (€546m), a 13 per cent increase from continuing operations. EBITDA was up 11 per cent at £231 million.
Arqiva said it is confident that it will achieve further significant improvements in EBITDA over the next 12 months to December 2017 as a result of continued revenue growth and cost savings programmes.
Arqiva provides the communications infrastructure used by mobile telecoms network operators; TV & radio broadcasters and satellite TV broadcasters. It has taken a leading role in deploying devices requiring machine-to-machine connectivity such as smart meters for energy and water.
Simon Beresford-Wylie, CEO commenting on the results said: “Arqiva is continuing to deliver strong growth in revenue up by 10 per cent in the half year, operating profit and, importantly, cash-flow from our operations as our capital expenditure and working capital needs start to reduce, after a number of years of historically high levels to support our investment in smart metering and DAB radio rollout.”
“We own a leading portfolio of broadcast and telecoms towers infrastructure and we are making progress with optimising utilisation of our assets.”
“Our investment and capital expenditure is focused on clearly defined opportunities and projects to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of the digital economy. We have a very strong order book with long term inflation-linked contracts and investment grade credit ratings to support these investments.”
“We are currently developing our small cells proposition to improve 4G coverage and capacity and in the summer we will be working in partnership with Samsung to deliver an in-field trial of 5G FWA connectivity. We see considerable opportunities to increase the UK’s connectivity and ensure that the UK economy benefits.”
“Alongside our growth strategy, our transformation programme ‘FutureFit‘ is lowering our cost base, aligning the way we work to reflect market developments better, identifying the needs of our customers better and strengthening our ability to deliver complex projects.”
Revenue in Terrestrial Broadcast was up 8.2 per cent. This was largely driven by growth in TV channel sales (Digital Platforms), rollout of radio networks and the 700 MHz clearance programme.
During the six months to December 31st 2016, Arqiva increased the capacity of its two main DVB-T Multiplexes to 31 streams, all of which are utilised. This has driven revenue growth and EBITDA margin expansion. Ongoing full utilisation of these Multiplexes and a strong period of sales with high quality customers demonstrate the on-going attractiveness to broadcasters of the Freeview DTT platform.
Arqiva is delivering the DAB rollout programme and upgrades to the analogue radio network as part of the BBC New Radio Agreement. As at December 31st 2016, Arqiva had 159 new transmitters on air helping broadcasters in reaching the targeted UK DAB network coverage of more than 97% of the population. The final stages for the current phase of the rollout programme are expected to complete by the end of March 2017.
The Group has successfully achieved the local DAB coverage threshold of 90 per cent set by the UK Government in 2010, and is progressing with the delivery of Commercial local DAB to increase coverage to 91 per cent. Arqiva is delivering new transmitters and upgrades at 220 sites and as at December 31st 2016 work had been completed on 201 sites. The remainder of the work is due to be completed by June 2017. The first national DAB multiplex achieved 93 per cent capacity utilisation in September following the launch of Capital Radio.
Sound Digital network (a consortium in which Arqiva has a 40 per cent holding) was successfully launched in March 2016 and by September had achieved 100 per cent capacity utilisation. At the first ever Audio and Radio Industry Awards in October Sound Digital was awarded the Radio Academy Award for the biggest contributor to the industry in 2016.
Additionally, Arqiva is contracted with the major broadcasters and Ofcom to deliver the 700 MHz clearance programme to enable spectrum to be auctioned to the mobile network operators (MNOs). The programme is expected to generate cash flows from 2016 to 2021. In October 2016, Ofcom announced that it is aiming to make the 700 MHz band nationally available for mobile data by the second quarter of 2020.
Telecoms revenue was up 5 per cent as a result of the four MNOs continuing to increase their 4G network coverage; Arqiva is carrying out large volumes of antenna and feeder upgrade projects, resulting in a significant increase in installation services revenues. At December 2016 the Group had completed 4,871 4G upgrades. A further c. 3,400 upgrades are in progress or have been requested by the MNOs over the next 18 months.
The disposal of the WiFi business was completed successfully in November 2016 for net proceeds of £23.6 million. The prior year period includes revenues totalling £16.9 million (2016: £7.2m) from non-core businesses which have subsequently been sold. Excluding these, organic revenue growth was 24.1 per cent for Telecoms & M2M.