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Telkom crashes almost 30% in minutes after warning of billions in write downs

SA’s third-biggest mobile operator Telkom warned on Wednesday its profits have plummeted after retrenchments and a strategic shift towards digital technologies prompted one-off costs of more than R14 billion. This is almost the equivalent of its market value of R16 billion. 

In response, the company’s shares crashed almost 30% in the first minutes of trading on Wednesday. It retraced some of the losses, trading down 17% later in the morning. Its share price has now more than halved over the past year.

The company’s basic earnings per share are expected to crash by as much as 485%, as Telkom has to digest more than R1 billion in retrenchment-related costs and R13 billion in writedowns of various business units.

In addition, the restructuring will have a tax effect of R288 million, and the writedowns a tax effect of R3.5 billion, the company said.

Telkom said that “significant market changes and current economic conditions, including accelerated load shedding, low anticipated economic growth rates and a high interest rate environment, coupled with evolving technological advancements have had an adverse effect on the group”.

It was considering impairments related to Openserve, Telkom Consumer, Gyro and BCX, which follows a strategy to accelerate its migration to newer technologies.

Openserve is SA’s biggest infrastructure connectivity provider with the largest open-access network across the country. BCX provides ICT solutions to companies, and Gyro manages the group’s properties and data centres.

Telkom has for years been weighed down by its traditional fixed-line business. It has suspended dividends for the past three years.

Headline earnings per share – which excludes various one-off items – had fallen almost 52% in the first half of its 2023 year. The company expects a full-year decline of between 85% and 105% in reported terms.

In February, the company had also announced a restructuring process that could affect 15% of its almost 12 000 employees.

“In line with the consultation process with unions, Telkom extended voluntary severance packages and voluntary early retirement packages to all employees in the group,” it said on Wednesday.

“The group is currently engaging its social partners, including concluding organisational manning, and is on track to achieve the initial commitment. The cash outpayment relating to the restructuring will occur in the 2024 financial year.”  –