TelEm revenue drops, profit close to 7 million guilders

POSTED: 06/21/16 5:44 PM

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TelEm Group Chief Financial Officer Helma Etnel addresses staff during a meeting at the Belair Community Center. Photo contributed

St. Maarten News – The TelEm Group has reported a profit of close to 7 million guilders for the year 2015 – despite dropping local and international call rates and the widespread use of free calling services on St. Maarten.

The profit figure was announced to TelEm Group personnel by Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Helma Etnel, during a general meeting at the Belair Community Center, Friday.

According to Etnel the profits are due to the combined efforts of TelEm Group management and personnel in all divisions; The was however a significant drop in revenue. It is unclear how much revenue dropped, because the annual report that contains the figures has been sent to the shareholder but it has not been made public.

Media reports suggesting that TelEm’s revenue for the year was only 6 million guilders are erroneous. “This is a 50 million guilder company,” public relations officer Joe Dominique said.

“So while we were getting less money in, we were very conservative with spending and using what we had much more efficiently,” Etnel said.

She was however upbeat about the results. “The figures could not have come at a better time to boost the morale of personnel, with many negative things being reported about the company in the online and print media. I regret that development.”

Etnel urged personnel and managers not to dwell on these negative reports but to remind themselves of all the positive things they have done over the past several years to make the company viable and to continue to provide jobs for St. Maarteners and services for Country St. Maarten.

“We have succeeded in maintaining a majority market share in a very competitive environment. We have shown that we run a tight ship with documented proof that we have our house in order.

“We continued to be transparent in our operation with a top-management layer that makes us a leader so far as integrity and high ethical standards go,” Etnel said, adding that the company has scored over 95% on compliance with the Corporate Governance Code.

Etnel said there have now been consecutive years of profits due to the right strategic decisions, a string of successful investments, conservative spending, more visible branding, and good financial results. “This is all evidence of the good work that have been carried out by management and staff in recent years.”.

The profit made in the past year is quite remarkable at a time when telecommunication revenues and rates are plummeting at an alarming rate globally, and locally due to free messaging- and calling applications such as Whatsapp, Skype, Facebook Messenger and Facetime, Etnel said.

She however warned staff that they still have to meet some serious challenges this year to meet customer expectations for uninterrupted voice and data services and more affordable prices. “We listen to our customers and we are fully aware of the challenges we are facing, and improvements that need to be made.”.

The CFO believes TelEm Group is one of the best corporate citizens on the island.

“Thanks to the board, management and staff, we have together developed a company that spends over 50 million guilders each year in the local economy by payment of taxes, providing salaries to a workforce consisting for 95% of locals, utilizing many local contractors, and payments for products and services from our very own local business etc. We have also provided for the community with many sponsorship programs and contributions, invested a lot in our carnival product, and we can therefore state that TelEm is a major economic contributor, and is one that we should be proud of with many good things to showcase over the past several years.”

Etnel sincerely believes that TelEm Group and its subsidiaries are great companies and true assets to country St. Maarten. “It is only fair to our staff therefore, to remind the public that a lot has been achieved by the board, management and staff for close to seven years since the company has been running without a CEO. The departure of the last named CEO, Pieter Drenth, was close to seven years ago.”

Looking ahead, Mrs. Etnel said plans are already being enacted to improve the customer experience level, and to comply with Quality of Service standards.

“TelEm is aggressively expanding its fiber optics network to be able to deliver high speed internet services to households and businesses. We are also in the process to upgrade our mobile network to 4G LTE, allowing mobile users to utilize more high speed data services.

“While we are still in the process of making these large investments to improve our core networks, we are proud that we are still rightfully chosen by customers as the #1 telecommunication provider for 2 years in a row. A great recognition that we are following the right path,” Etnel said.

Speaking during and after the general meeting about her own future position within the company now that the shareholder has named two possible choices for the vacant position of CEO, Etnel said:

“I am quite honestly proud and happy to be CFO of the TelEm group, and I will support any CEO that will be appointed to this company by the supervisory board and the shareholder, as I always did in the past. I will continue to work on improvements of our business operation.”

According to Mrs. Etnel, the highlight of her tenure at the head of the TelEm Group Management Board was the successful implementation of the company’s restructuring process.

“It was a very complex job that previous CEOs could not do or refused to handle because of the risky nature of such a sensitive assignment and the consequences that might have been involved. We have negotiated at that time with the union for a long-awaited collective labor agreement and social plan that preceded the execution of a complicated restructuring process, implemented a complete new organization with new jobs and transferred staff peacefully to their new jobs. We were really able to partner with the union and staff and execute something that was needed to save this company. Through that process we saved TelEm from bankruptcy, and the company is currently financially healthy and viable because of that painful – but very necessary- step that we took as a united team,” said Mrs. Etnel.

Asked what she personally wants for the company now, Mrs. Etnel says: “I want success for TelEm so that we can continue to provide a living for the close to 150 families that depend on the company and the many businesses that depend on TelEm. I want a state of the art mobile and fixed infrastructure for the island, and offering of reliable services to our customers at affordable rates knowing that this is a crucial requirement to stimulate economic growth and development of a nation, and much needed for further enhancement of our tourism product.”

Ms. Etnel stated further: “To my belief, the supervisory board, management, staff and union can be proud of their contribution in a significant way toward laying a foundation for a profitable and sustainable telecom company with a solid infrastructure for the island.”

She hopes that by stating the truth she will give a measure of assurance and comfort to staff and the many stakeholders of the TelEm Group in the knowledge that St. Maarten has a great company in TelEm whose personnel will continue to work diligently towards further improvement of services to the company’s valuable clients.

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