Axiata Almost Doubles Payout to $966 Million as Net Jumps

Axiata Group Bhd., Malaysia’s largest mobile-phone operator, almost doubled its proposed annual dividend payout to 3 billion ringgit ($966 million) after boosting profits.

The carrier, based in Kuala Lumpur, declared a final dividend of 27 sen per share, including a special dividend of 12 sen, according to a stock exchange filing today. That brought its total planned 2012 payout to 35 sen per share, compared with 19 sen a year earlier.

Axiata, which has operations in countries including India, Indonesia and Singapore, began paying dividends in 2011 after previously retaining earnings to fund growth and acquisitions in emerging Asian markets. It increased its payout ratio to 70 percent of earnings in 2012 from 60 percent a year earlier. That’s excluding the special dividend.

Net income climbed 4.9 percent to 571.1 million ringgit, or 7 sen per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31, from 544.6 million ringgit, or 6 sen, a year earlier, it said. Revenue gained 4.7 percent to 4.45 billion ringgit.

“I’m very pleased with the group’s excellent growth in revenue and profitability despite competition,” Jamaludin Ibrahim, Axiata’s chief executive officer, said in a separate statement.

Full-year profit rose 7.1 percent to 2.51 billion ringgit, or 30 sen per share, the filing showed. That missed the 32.2 sen average of 34 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

‘Value Creation’

“In 2012 Axiata’s share price grew 28 percent, with total shareholders’ return at 32.7 percent, outperforming” the FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index for the third consecutive year, Azman Mokhtar, chairman of Axiata and managing director of its biggest shareholder Khazanah Nasional Bhd., said in the statement. “This, alongside the increased dividends, goes a long way toward value creation for shareholders.”

Axiata rose 1.9 percent to 6.33 ringgit at the close in Kuala Lumpur. It’s dropped 4 percent this year, while the benchmark index has lost 4.4 percent amid investor concern over the outcome of Malaysia’s general election this year.

The group also owns stakes in mobile operators in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Cambodia. Axiata has expressed interest in a license in Myanmar, the company said Jan. 25.

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