Robi ended 2018 on a positive note despite incurring huge losses in the last quarter, logging in Tk 214.7 crore in net profits on the back of the sales of its stake in a tower company.
Robi Axiata's parent company Malaysia-based Axiata Group published the figures in the financial statement on Friday.
With this, the second-largest mobile phone operator in Bangladesh bounced back to profitability after two straight years of losses caused by its merger with Airtel.
After the merger with Airtel in November 2016, the operator lost Tk 389.2 crore in the same year and Tk 284.3 crore in 2017.
The last time Robi made a net profit was in 2015 when it took home Tk 400.4 crore. Robi sold 20 percent of its shares in edotco Bangladesh for about $120 million, the payment for which was received in September.
The one-off payment has brought Robi to profitability, not the core business, a senior executive of the company said.
It lost Tk 96 crore in the fourth quarter of 2018. Last year, Robi's customer base widened by 40 lakh to 4.69 crore but it failed to boost revenue: revenue fell by Tk 36.5 crore to Tk 6,798.2 crore in 2018 from Tk 6,834.7 crore a year ago.
The operator's data usage is growing rapidly and 60.4 percent or 2.83 crore of its customers now use mobile data. The operator's data revenue also grew.
Commenting on the financial performance, Robi's Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Mahtab Uddin Ahmed said: “It is very clear that our aggressive investment in 4G is paying dividend in terms of robust growth of data revenue.”
However, excessive price competition in the data service is not helping compensate for the declining revenue from the voice service, largely because of increased use of over-the-top mobile applications.
“In this backdrop, we urge the government to immediately set a floor price for data service to ensure sustainability of the industry,” said Ahmed.
He said Robi's expanding data network is helping it make significant progress in the parts of the market where it had struggled traditionally.
“Having been the only operator to have successfully trialed VoLTE [voice-over long-term evolution] and 5G services, Robi is well on its way to becoming the next-generation digital champion.”
Robi owns the country's largest 4G mobile network and its customers use 1,364 megabytes of data on an average per month, up from 712 megabytes a year ago.
Robi paid Tk 3,079 crore in taxes to the government exchequer last year.