By Elias Hazou
THE CYPRUS Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) must continue adapting to stay competitive as it shifts toward privatisation, its chairman said on Wednesday.
“CyTA must continue to offer the Cypriot public the latest in technology at competitive prices. But what should be avoided at all cost, is the discrediting of the organisation, which ultimately would lead to the wrong path, to the detriment of the economy, the country and the taxpayers,” board chairman Christos Patsalides told a news conference.
Presenting CyTA’s financial results for 2014, Patsalides said operating profit came to €42.6m, down from €66.1m the previous year.
Profit before tax was €56.9m, compared to €54.8m in 2013.
Revenues declined by 8.7 per cent compared to 2013, but at the same the telecoms company cut its operating costs.
According to Patsalides, operating profit would have exceeded €70m were it not for payments made toward a voluntary exit programme for staff.
In 2014, 521 staff members took the exit package.
Taking into account the adverse economic climate in 2013 and the “earth-shattering” events of that year, the chairman said, the 2014 results “are considered to be quite satisfactory, especially when compared to other companies of a similar size operating here.”
On the hot-button issue of privatisation – required under a bailout deal between Cyprus and international creditors – Patsalides kept it short and simple, saying only that CyTA has set up teams which are providing financial and other data to the privatisations commissioner.
“For more information on this subject, I think that the privatisations commissioner is the more competent official to speak to,” he said.
It’s understood the government is in the process of drafting legislation related to denationalising the state-owned company.
Employees and unions are opposed to the coming privatisation, warning among others of a fire sale of the company’s assets.
Under the terms of the bailout, Cyprus has to raise €1.4bn by privatising state owned companies, including CyTA, the power utility and the commercial operations of the Limassol port.
Various estimates have been made of CyTA’s value. Interestingly, according to CyTA’s own figures, the organisation’s total assets in 2014 were worth €971m, compared to €1.037bn the previous year.
On CyTA’s subsidiary in Greece, CyTA Hellas, Patsalides stressed that the organisation “will stand by its child.”
To date, CyTA has poured some €120m into the Greek subsidiary, representing its largest investment.
CyTA Hellas, which offers broadband and telephony services in Greece, has been operating at a loss since 2008.
But Patsalides said that actions have been taken to shore up expenses, adding that in 2015 CyTA Hellas will require some €5m in additional financing, in line with previous forecasts.
He also talked up the fact that in 2014 CyTA Hellas was the only telecoms provider in Greece offering customers 4play services (fixed telephony, mobile, internet and television) in a single contract.
Patsalides dismissed reports that CyTA is cutting back on sponsorship deals, particularly in sports. The organisation, he said, has acquired the television rights for Cypriot football for the period 2016-2019. The deal is expected to be signed in the next few days.