Ivan Dasa Saputra
Indosat, Indonesia’s second-biggest mobile phone operator, lost money in the first half of 2012 as the rupiah weakened. It was a reversal for a company that turned in profit for the same period last year.
Indosat, 55.8 percent owned by Qatar Telecom, booked a net loss of Rp 132 billion ($14 million) in the January-June period, down from Rp 724 billion in net income of the same period a year earlier.
The company’s revenue actually increased 3.3 percent to Rp 10.38 trillion in the first half this year, thanks to strong sales growth.
Its foreign-exchange losses, though, totaled Rp 522.25 billion as the rupiah weakened 4.3 percent in the first half. The currency dropped from Rp 9,480 per dollar at the end of 2011 to Rp 9,068 per dollar at the end of June.
As the rupiah lost value, the company’s debt burden increased, especially on the payments that matured in the period. Forty-six percent of Indosat’s debts were dollar-denominated, said Harry Sasongko, the company’s president director.
Harry did not disclose debts maturing in the first half, but he did say that in the second half Rp 2.9 trillion worth of debts would mature, denominated in both dollars and rupiah. The company’s total outstanding debt amounted to Rp 26 trillion, of which a portion of it is $70 million, he said.
Indosat is the No. 2 mobile-phone operator in Indonesia, with more than 50 million registered subscribers. Telkomsel, the country’s biggest mobile operator, has more than 100 million customers.
There are now more mobile phone accounts than people in Indonesia, and Indosat is competing fiercely with other operators in voice call and short text messaging services.
Mobile phone operators have gradually shifted their focus from calls and text messaging charges to data services.
The mobile phone is the instrument of choice for many Indonesians for accessing the Internet. Some 57 percent of people access the Internet through their phones. Only 47 percent of Indonesians use a computer to get online.
Shares of Indosat dropped 2 percent, to Rp 4,850 on the Indonesian Stock Exchange (IDX), on Tuesday.
They have fallen 9.2 percent in the past 12 months.