Orascom financial report includes Koryolink information

UPDATE:  According to Business Monitor International:

koryolink, North Korea’s sole mobile service provider has reported strong subscriber demand. The joint venture (JV), which is 75% controlled by  Orascom Telecom of Egypt and the remainder held by state-owned  Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC), saw its subscriber base rise by 149.2% quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q) in Q209 to end with 47,863. The operator stated it had encouraged interest in its services through further cuts in connection fees, the introduction of free SMS for the first time and the revision of free minutes to satisfy customer requirements.

Almost all of the operator’s subscribers are based in the capital Pyongyang. This is due to the prevalence of two retail outlets based in the downtown area, in addition to three KPTC shops, which sell koryolink services, while the level of network coverage is significantly higher in the capital than anywhere else in the country. Although calls can be made outside of Pyongyang, the reception is often poor, suffering from weak service quality and dropped calls.

Mobile penetration rates, based on Pyongyang’s population are estimated at 1.4%, which is significantly lower than the 30% cited by cellular-news sources. Demand for mobile in the capital has been led not by government officials and foreign ownership but by ordinary citizens. State employees and foreigners are prohibited from owning mobile handsets, which has been deemed a security risk, with authorities wishing to control information from being circulated outside. This was a primary reason for the decision to ban mobile services in the country following the explosion in the northern Ryongchon train station in April 2004, which was said to have been a failed assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who had passed through the station several hours before the explosion. A state of emergency was subsequently declared, and the country cut all telephone and mobile lines in order to stop news from getting out

While the two most likely market segment groups able to afford and own mobile handsets have been barred from usage, this has not impacted mobile revenues. Indeed, koryolink announced that its Q209 revenues had risen by 179.7% q-o-q to US$12.472mn, based on strong subscriber growth and ARPUs of US$22.8.

Meanwhile, there are plans to create a national mobile network across the country, according to the North Korean Central Broadcasting Station, as cited by state news agency Yonhap News. Fibre-optic cables are also being laid to link the capital with all provinces with the intention of supplying digital services. The automation and digital capacity of the country’s data networks are said to have already risen by some sevenfold over the last 16 years.

ORIGINAL POST: Download Orascom’s financial report for the first half of 2009 (here in PDF).  The information on Koryolink is on page 24.  Here is the text:

Being the first full fledged operator to serve DPRK offering attractively priced services and utilizing state of the art technologies, Koryolink was met with very positive market reception. The first of its kind mobile fair in the history of DPRK was launched during the last two weeks of March.

In order to capitalize on the subscriber growth momentum, in the second quarter of 2009 Koryolink introduced further reduction in connection fees as well as free SMS for the first time. Additionally, the mix of free minutes was revised to satisfy customer requirements. Such changes resulted in even more positive demand.

Throughout the second quarter, demand on Koryolink services remained strong and the subscriber base at the end of Q2 ended just short of 50K representing an increase of 149% in subscriber base compared to Q1. Koryolink subscriber base stood at 47.85 thousand by the end of Q2.

Koryolink retail network currently consists of 2 large sales shops strategically located in downtown Pyongyang with 3 additional scratch card sales outlets located within KPTC post office shops. Koryolink plans to expand the indirect sales network through the inauguration of 6 more outlets within KPTC shops. A separate after sales service shop is planned for Q3.

According to the report, at the end of the second quarter of 2009 Orascom reported that Koryolink’s mobile subscriber base reached 47,863 (this was apparently leaked earlier in the year so no surprises there), up from 19,208 three months earlier. During Q2 MOU rose to 199 per month, but ARPU fell to USD22.8, compared to USD24.7 in the first quarter of 2009.

And according to Yonhap:

Orascom reported that its operating profit from North Korea reached US$2.49 million in the April-June period, soaring about eight fold from $312,000 for the previous quarter.

Second quarter sales for Koryolink, a 75-25 percent joint venture between Orascom and North Korea, amounted to $8.01 million, with its profit margin reaching 31 percent, up substantially from the 7 percent for the previous three months, according to Orascom.

Read more Koryolink stories here.


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