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Uganda Telecom Company UTL projects 30percent growth

STANLEY Henning, the uganda telecom (UTL) chief operations officer, told David Mugabe that the company is on track and here to stay.

Since the Government took control of UTL under the UN resolution, did the Government also take over the liabilities?
The process of taking over the assets and liabilities has not been completed.

There have been extensive discussions between the board and the Government on how this should be done to ensure that the shares of LAP Green are held in trust and managed responsibly by the Government.

That has not been 100% concluded and there is no final document on that, but it will be concluded soon.

What major structural and management changes were undertaken since the takeover?
The Libyan board members and the CEO were removed.

The CEO was replaced by our legal representative. The board now consists of the managing director and three government representatives.

What is your current subscriber numbers?
We have two million subscribers, which is the highest in the history of the business. We have 150,000 fixed line customers and 15,000 data and internet customers.

Our subscriber base is the healthiest it has ever been.

What is the breakdown in UTL ownership?
LAP Green owns 69% and 31% is government owned.

Is UTL failing to meet its liabilities?
The last two years, the telecoms industry made rapid growth and advancement.

During the period, the players became more dynamic and aggressive and demanding.

It has impacted on everybody including UTL.

We have got liabilities like any other company.

The fact that the Libyan crisis appeared has created problems for us.

It has slowed us down slightly.

We have to create working capital ourselves and invest that in the business.

We are doing that to the best we can. The publicity around our liabilities has been pulled out of proportion.

The license of your sister company in Rwanda, Rwandatel was revoked for failure to live to its obligations. Is that not likely here?
Rwandatel and the revoking of the GSM license is 100% completely different from the situation we are in.

It is nothing to do with liabilities and funding.

It is an issue of two shareholders, the Government and LAP. That relationship has been terminated.

Our situation is that we have a positive relationship with our shareholder the Government.

We are playing a positive role in running this business and it is more of a relationship issue.

Are you in position to say in the next 12 months, UTL will have sorted its financial position?
UTL is on the ground with a very strong customer base.

We have valuable assets; passive and active assets.

We have superb relationships with our enterprise customers and with some key world class vendors like Alcatel and Huawei.

This brand will be around in one year.

What the shareholding will look like I cannot talk about because we live in a very dynamic industry.

But the fact that we got the stability provided by the Government and shareholding.

The Government is here to stay; UTL is here to stay.

Are you comfortable with the regulatory environment?
The UCC is operating in a market where there are many players, which challenge the UCC all the time.

I believe their approach and their impact to date has been positive because they work with us as operators.

It is not the regulator that decides, it is participative. They do take input from us.

How about the price floor introduced by UCC?
The market at the moment is consumer-driven. The pricing is very aggressive. The interventions are welcome, but we will just caution on over-regulation.

They are also saying some controls need to be put in place to stabilise the industry, to secure the future without over controlling.

What is your projection for the next one year in terms of growth and subscriber numbers?
We are looking at a 30% growth year-on-year in the industry. Voice is still the key driver of subscribers hence my optimistic forecast of 30% growth.

What is the strength and edge of UTL in this competitive market?
This is a trusted and well-known brand to all Ugandans.

Secondly, we have the latest and modern technology in our network as well as the strength of our fibre optic infrastructure to service corporate enterprise with effective data connectivity.

Can you then reassure subscribers that UTL will be okay and here for a long time?
In March, the UCC published its quality survey results of customer delivery. On three of the elements, UTL scored first and second.

We are not resting on that result. We have restructured our technical division and we are looking at operation efficiency as the key driver of the business.

We will provide even a better service than before. This is the message I want to send to customers.

A company that is not planning to survive, would not open brand new service centres in Tororo, Soroti, Arua and Mbarara. Isn’t that a company that is progressing.

How was your performance in 2010?
We would have loved better, but it relates to the competiveness and aggressiveness of the market with new players that shook the market.

What is your position and market share.What can we expect in the next one year?
We hold 10% market share. I don’t want to talk about position.

From an expectation perspective, we have launched some innovative new GSM services like Ndobo sh500, quick talk youth product which includes 100MB free data.

We also want to be more visible. We would like to invite anybody who is not sure to visit our call centres.

The New Vision Newspaper

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