LIME Jamaica CEO Garry Sinclair expects operating profit to grow 25 per cent to some US$25.7 million ($2.6 B) this financial year ending March 2014.
Jamaican companies rarely provide forecasts, but Sinclair stated that at least 40,000 and 1,000 new mobile and broadband subscribers added every month since June 2013 would fuel that growth.
Shareholders at LIME's annual general meeting (AGM) on Wednesday, however, really wanted dividends, to which Sinclair gave no timeline.
"What I do not want to do, Steven, is set an expectation here and see a headline in the Observer that Cable & Wireless (C&W) is to pay dividends in 2015/6 or 2016/17 or anything like that. I do not want to see that headline in the paper and I will not commit to that," Sinclair told this reporter during the AGM held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
Investors haven't received dividends in five years and its also cheaper to buy a LIME stock than an icy-mint. Sinclair, addressing his third AGM as CEO, did reveal that dividends would be paid once operating profit or earning before interest, depreciation, tax and amortisation (EBIDTA) hit 30 per cent of revenues. All things remaining equal, that would require LIME doubling its forecast operating profit from 15 per cent of revenues projected by year end at US$25.7 million to over US$50 million. Its a target viewed with scepticism by some shareholders.
"You all will be showing a loss for the next ten years and I bet my life on that," promised vocal shareholder Orrette Staple in his over 20- minute cross-examination of the board. "You will never make any profit based on what you are doing now."
C&W, which trades as LIME, last paid dividends to shareholders in its 2008 financial year at some $504 million on a $4.2 billion net loss. The last year the company posted a net profit was $2 billion in 2007. The company continues to struggle with competition from main rival Digicel Jamaica.
The absence of a dividend timeline leaves shareholders with only the prospect of capital appreciation on the share price in the near term.
"It is tough to predict where the stock price will go on the market. All we can focus on is creating value in the company and hopefully that value will be demonstrable to shareholders," Sinclair said.
Sinclair, on the dividend timeline, added: "The fact of the matter is that we have a specific target for when we are going to hit that 30 per cent target. I can't share that with you here today."
Consumers flocked to LIME's mobile network in its first quarter ending June 2013 but the company still recorded an $808-million net loss, more than double year-earlier levels. LIME indicated that total revenues dipped 10 per cent to $4.3 billion due to fixed line and broadband declines but mobile revenues actually grew 10 per cent over the period.
The telecom's mobile subscriber base however jumped nearly one-quarter as rates were slashed by some two-thirds in early June as part of a marketing campaign facilitated by regulatory rate cuts. The reduction in LIME rates actually preceded a regulatory adjustment by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR). LIME tightly manages information on its network size, and did not disclose its size in the June quarterly report.
The OUR in its Cost Model for Mobile Termination Rates -- Determination Notice, May 2013 described Digicel Jamaica as holding 84 per cent mobile market share in a two-player market which places LIME at 16 per cent prior to the rate cut.
LIME cut rates from $6.99 to $2.99 across networks and for international calls to the diaspora since June. The OUR implemented a new mobile termination rate of $1.10 per minute in July which followed resistance and legal fights from stakeholders over a decade.
LIME Jamaica recorded a $4.9-billion total loss for its March 2013 year end compared with a $20-billion loss a year earlier.