By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Aliv is targeting summer 2019 for its operations to hit “break even” through $50-$60m in annual revenues, as it unveiled plans to “double down” on investment in its mobile network.
Damian Blackburn, the mobile operator’s top executive, told Tribune Business that it will make a further multi-million dollar spend this year to ensure its nationwide infrastructure keeps pace with the “phenomenal success” it has enjoyed in growing mobile data use.
Revealing that Aliv’s subscriber base had grown by a further 11.2 percent, from 125,000 to 139,000, during the final quarter of 2018, he said combining this with the latest data for the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) showed the new mobile entrant had gained around 38 percent market share in just over two years.
Mr Blackburn did not comment directly on assertions last week by the Bahamas Telecommunications Company’s (BTC) chief executive, Garfield “Garry” Sinclair, that the former state-owned incumbent still retained 70 percent subscriber share and 72-73 percent of the mobile sector’s value.
However, Aliv’s numbers challenge Mr Sinclair’s figures even assuming that there was no change in BTC’s 228,300 mobile subscriber base during the final three months of 2018, with Mr Blackburn expressing confidence that his company was “taking our share of revenue in line” with client numbers.
“We’ve made very good progress against our financial targets, and are in touching distance now,” the Aliv chief told Tribune Business. “We’re on target for $50-$60m in revenues in this financial year, and we’re targeting this summer for EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation) break even.
“It’s not an exact science, but there are not many companies that have got to a 38 percent market share in two years. We had a 60-day base of 139,000 subscribers by the end of December. We’ve gone from 125,000 to 139,000 in the last quarter [of 2018].
“We’re touching 38 percent, and are trying to get to 39 percent by the financial year-end in June. There are lots of different ways of calculating mobile market share, but we estimate it’s around 38-39 percent and certainly north of 35 percent.”
Mr Sinclair last week told Tribune Business that BTC needed to “create some type of inflexion point” in 2019 where it first stopped, then reversed, the erosion of its customer base caused by Aliv stealing clients from it.
Disclosing that he was “seeing some green shoots”, and signs that BTC was making progress in achieving this goal, Mr Sinclair said BTC had enjoyed “net growth” in mobile subscribers ever since “Black Friday apart from last Sunday, when it suffered a 300 customer churn. He added that the carrier “got them all back” on the Monday.
Mr Blackburn, though, said Aliv was continuing to experience growth in all mobile market segments, adding: “I told the Cable Bahamas annual general meeting (AGM) that we’re on course this financial year for revenues in the $50-$60m range. We’re confident we’re taking our share or revenue commensurate with our market share because we are growing fast in all market segments.
“Over the course of just two years we’ve got a 38 percent market share, and that has been as a result of putting down fundamental pillars to underpin the infrastructure we have built, which is a world-class 4.5G network; a customer experience in all aspects of what we do that is unrivalled in The Bahamas; innovation in all we do; real service to the community in the way we go about our business; and treating employees as partners.
“Those factors are what is driving our growth over these two years... We are picking up high value customers. We’re seeing tremendous growth in all products and market segments.”
Turning to Aliv’s plans for 2019, Mr Blackburn told Tribune Business: “We’re doubling down on our network, investing more money to make sure we stay ahead of the curve on data capacity.
“We’ve been phenomenally successful in attracting high-date using subscribers, and believe we have caused a market shift in the way people are using mobile to access data. We have to continue to invest in the network to keep pace with data use.”
Mr Blackburn said Aliv had provided Family Island residents with broadband access through broadband Internet, and added that it was also “doubling down” on innovative solutions around its Aliv Creates platform.
This works in partnership with Bahamian app developers and entrepreneurs to take their innovations to the public, and the Aliv chief promised: “You’ll see a lot more around that in the next few weeks. You’ll see things in the near-term, not 2028.
“We continue to to make sure we deliver the best value in the market in terms of the customer value proposition, making sure they have the right product offering mix of calls, data and messaging people need.
“We also continue to manage the very best and latest smart phone technology and needed accessories. We have launched the latest line of iphones, and continue to provide an excellent customer experience in the very specific sales teams we have set up, and trained to set up certain customers, like the concierge team literally switching hundreds if customers over.”
Mr Blackburn continued: “We are doing very well in the corporate market, and continue to work hard and fight hard hard to win more business in that market.
“Hopefully we’ve delivered on the promise to bring choice. We think we have, but that’s the market’s judgment not mine.”