B.T.L.ís Net Revenue Decreases by 24%

BTL is celebrating its 30th anniversary as a private company. In that time, it has gone from the Belize Telecommunications Limited, to Belize Telemedia Limited, and now to DIGI.

Last night, the company had its 13th AGM under the Telemedia name and we found executives and corporate strategists positioning themselves for a date driven future, but still paying for costly, legacy technologies. Jules Vasquez found that the tension between new and old technology had a direct effect on the company's bottom line:

The banner said 13th AGM- but really it's the private phone company's 30th year of existence, first privatized in 1988. Net Vasquez who was Chairman, then and now, said change has been the only constant:

Nestor Vasquez, BTL Chairman
"We are proud to have seen our own BTL being transformed and adapted to meet all the challenges, both external and internal to keep abreast of the world in its technology as it grows."

"We now have a fIber to the home network - this has brought the company's total investment in the past 10 years to over 500 million dollars. We invested that from our profits. Of course, we had to borrow a few dollars as well."

"Fiber to the home" is now the backbone of the company platform as it pivots forward into an uncertain future:

Ivan Tesucum, CEO, Digi
"No one could have predicted the depth and intensity at which we now have to change. The acceleration of change is crazy; it's beyond belief. But, that is our job: to ensure that your company is able to meet and address those market challenges."

But while it tries to ride the wave of the future, the executives had to explain to these shareholders why when revenues reached an all time high of 164.5 million, profits were down 5 million dollars:

Mohan Mahase - Chief Financial Officer - Acting
"165.1 MILLION now stands as the highest revenue every earned by the company in a SINGULAR YEAR. The increase in the operating efficiency ratios translated to an increase of about 8 million in the year. The 2 main reasons for the higher operating cost were as the CEO would have indicated increase the fact that we are running 2 netwroks. We continue to run our copper network and we continue to run our fiber to the home network."

Ivan Tesucum, CEO - BTL
"One of the things though, from a shareholder's standpoint is that the dividends that were declared at twenty and a half cents was similar to last year for a return fo 4.1%."

And, the company expects its profits to rebound.

Ivan Tesucum, CEO - BTL
"Right now we're running two networks; we are running the old legacy network which is incurring cost and has customers and then we have the new network. So we need to now move customers over from the old copper network to gain the efficiencies of the new network. That is where savings will come."

Reporter
"Do you all expect that profits will rebound next year into the 20 plus million dollars range?"

Ivan Tesucum, CEO - BTL
"It will rebound not necessarily in this fiscal year, but in the other one to come, because right now we are another fiscal year, so by the time we begin moving customers over, the next fiscal, we should see it."

But, BTL accepts that it is now battling in a globally competitive market:

Ivan Tesucum, CEO, Digi
"We recognized that the competition is not only local, the competition really, is bigger than that. It is the big companies of the world, It is the multibillion dollar companies that we are competing with. The Facebook's, the Instagram, the WhatsApp of the world. That's our competition so we had to change our mindset."

"Where we're now going is that how we can provide the new revenue streams, because what was traditional no longer will be able to be maintain and support the level of revenues. So that where now we are transforming."

Reporter
"Is cable TV one of those possible revenue streams?"

Ivan Tesucum, CEO, Digi
"We are looking at strategic business combinations and I think yes, Content, whether it be local content or international content, that is certainly something that we are currently considering, but on top of that we have to be looking at new services on which the fiber can be delivered, so when we speak of the internet of things, home automation, e-help, e-tourism - the digital learning platform, safe cities - all of these things are new revenue streams that we need to now monetize the fiber network that we deliver to 90% of the country."

A future of uncertainty buoyed by optimism

Nestor Vasquez, BTL Chairman
"Let us together go beyond, that's the goal."

Time will tell whether that optimism is justified.

BTL Doesnít Expect To Pay Sales Tax 25 Mil.

And while BTL can still boast of a 17 million dollar profit - there's a lingering tax matter with the GST office that's significantly bigger than that.

We found a reference to the multi million dollar dispute with the Sales tax Office. They have calculated it at 25 plus million dollars in taxes arising but not assessed to the company because it is a matter of great accounting dispute.

We asked the CEO about it:

Reporter
"An obscured note on page 34, it says "contingencies - there is an ongoing audit by general sales tax department on the parent company Belize Telemedia Limited and two of its subsidiary companies BESL and BTL Digicell Limited. In management's opinion is unlikely that the group will incur any additional tax liability resulting from the audit. It's 25 million. Your profits are 17.04 million. How much of a concern is this for the company going forward being that's it's something really outside your hands?"

Ivan Tesucum, CEO, Digi
"The company maintains that we are still doing the audit. There has been no assessment. At the end of the day we have paid all our taxes."

Reporter
"It is really a decision not in your hands?"

Ivan Tesecum
"Well like I said that's the management with the auditors working on that and yes, we do not owe that money. We've paid all our taxes and the audit is still ongoing and we continue to work with the authorities in that respect."

When we spoke to the Financial secretary some weeks ago, he said the matter has still not been resolved.

Channel 7