Telecom Argentina's CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Telecom Argentina (TEO)

Q4 2011 Earnings Conference Call

February 17, 2012 10:00 AM ET

Executives

Pedro Insussarry – Finance Director

Franco Bertone – CEO

Adrián Calaza – CFO

Analysts

Rizwan Ali – Deutsche Bank

Stanley Martinez – Legal & General Investment Management

Rodrigo Villanueva – Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Presentation

Operator

Good day, everyone, and welcome to the Telecom Argentina, TEO, fourth quarter 2011 earnings conference call.

Today's call is being recorded.

Participating on today's call we have Mr. Franco Bertone, Chief Executive Officer of Telecom Argentina, Mr. Adrián Calaza, Chief Financial Officer; Mr. Pedro Insussarry, Finance Director; and Ms. Solange Barthe Dennin, Manager of Investor Relations.

At this time, I'd like to turn the call over to Mr. Pedro Insussarry. Please go ahead, sir.

Pedro Insussarry

Good morning to everybody. And on behalf of Telecom Argentina, I would like to thank you for participating on this conference call. As mentioned by Tracy, our moderator, the purpose of this call is to share with you the consolidated results of Telecom Argentina Group that correspond to the fourth quarter of full fiscal year 2011 that ended on December 31 st, 2011.

We would like to remind you that for all those that have not received our press release or presentation, you can call our Investor Relations office or download them from the Investor Relations section at our website located at www.telecom.com.ar/investors. Additionally, this conference call is being broadcasted through the webcast feature available in subsection and it can also be replayed through this same channel.

Before we can continue with the conference call, I would like to go over some Safe Harbor information and other details of the call, as we typically do in every earnings call.

We would like to clarify that during the conference call and Q&A sessions we may produce certain forward-looking statements about Telecom’s future performance, plans, strategies and targets. Such statements are subject to uncertainties that could cause Telecom's actual results and operations to differ materially. Such uncertainties include, but are not limited to, the effects of public emergency law and complementary regulation, the effects of ongoing industry and economic regulations, possible changes in demand for telecom products and services and the effects of more general factors such as changes in general market or economic conditions, in legislation and regulation.

Our press release dated February 16 th, 2012, a copy of which has been included in the Form 6-K report to be furnished to the SEC, describes certain factors that may affect any forward-looking statements we may produce during this session. Furthermore, we urge the audience of this conference call to read the disclaimer clause contained in slide one of the presentation.

As usual, in our quarterly conference calls, the agenda for today as seen in slide two is first to go over the general market overview. Then, we'll go over to some business highlights, and after that we'll go over to some specifics of the evolution of our financial figures, where we have added a short reconciliation between IFRS and local GAAP figures for fiscal year 2011, and finally we will end the call with our traditional Q&A session.

Having gone through these procedural matters, I will go over a brief macro overview as an introduction to the general operating environment.

In slide three, we included some snapshots on the current Argentine macroeconomic scenario. Year 2011 showed an Argentine economy with a substantial level of growth, although at the end of the year certain deceleration was perceived. Moreover, tightening fiscal and monetary policies announcing and gradually implemented by the government could slowdown economy during 2012, but could contribute to a more sustainable growth perhaps for the future.

Furthermore, strong drought affected the foreign margin (ph) in the country in the recent months and they imply lower commodity outputs and somehow lower (inaudible) exports for 2012, hence affecting the country’s trade balance. Subscriber consumption remains strong, although higher real interest rates and the reduction in public subsidies that could limit the performance of that consumption. (Inaudible) are starting from lower levels than last year as inflation ended lower than it was expected for the year at the beginning of 2011. Nonetheless, the reduction in energy and transit subsidies that may result in higher tariff and fees could add pressure on pricing in the economy.

National fiscal surplus suffered an important deterioration due to a strong increase in public spending, although as mentioned before, the government tends to tackle the problem by turning subsidies. Imports increased by 31% year-on-year in 2011. But in the last quarter strong deceleration was evidenced partly due to the increasing restrictions on imports. Furthermore, capital outflows decelerated in the last month of the year. Thanks to higher interest rates and the effects of regulations in the FX market that includes a preapproval of the tax office in certain treasury transaction.

In this challenging macroeconomic context for Argentina, our company continues to report strong growth in results, both in terms of businesses and financials as we will enlighten during this conference call.

Having gone through this introduction let me pass the call to Franco Bertone, who will go over the business highlights. Franco?

Franco Bertone

Well, thank you, Pedro. Good morning to everyone. In 2011, we posted a solid successful performance in mobile net adds and delivering a healthy growth in the fixed business.

In slide five, we highlight our Personal brand restyling that was executed in the fourth quarter of this year that strengthened our market positioning and contributed to deliver an outstanding performance in the postpaid segment in the quarter. We also want to bring to your attention the improvement in our Paraguayan operation, both in markets and financial performance. Throughout 2011, we continued (inaudible) into voice with ADSL and mobile incoming bundle, as well as introducing new products that helped delivering a 28% revenue growth in our fixed broadband services and sustain a marginal growth in the fixed line segment. In the fourth quarter, strong commercial and advertising diluted margins. Nonetheless throughout the year, our operational and financial performance exceeded the 2011 guidance we disclosed the market a year-ago.

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