United Group: Sustained momentum of profitable growth and transformation

The company presents its full-year 2020 and Q1 2021 financial results

Following its most recent quarterly call with credit investors on 27 May, United Group announces a trading update for 2020 and the first quarter of 2021.

  • Pro-forma revenues significantly increased to nearly €2 billion annually [1], compared to €742m achieved in 2019
  • Pro-forma Adjusted EBITDA increased to €763m annually [2], compared to €316m achieved in 2019
  • Growth driven by value-accretive M&A, as well as continued strong organic performance, and underpinned by sustained programme of investments
  • Important milestones achieved in transformation projects in new markets
  • Continued positive trends in all business segments

 Given the Company’s significant development since the start of 2020, United Group – the leading provider of telecommunications services and media in Southeast Europe – is updating stakeholders on its strong delivery against strategic goals during this period.

Commenting on the Group’s performance, Chief Executive Officer Viktoriya Boklag said: “2020 was one of the most transformative years in our history and 2021 looks to be equally important. Positive trends in turnover and EBITDA have continued throughout 2020 and into 2021. Our steady path of profitable growth was supported by key acquisitions that opened new markets to us and which are providing a foundation for United Group’s continued leadership in the region as a provider of both telecommunications and media services. We see significant opportunities for growth in each new market, as well as healthy synergies with the rest of the Group.”

United Group’s entry into Croatia, Bulgaria and Greece grew the total market served by the company to approximately 40 million people. Pro-forma revenues have significantly increased, reaching nearly €2 billion annually. RGUs at the end of Q1 were up more than 120% from a year earlier at approximately 11 million.

While acquisitions accounted for most increases, the Company also successfully realized further organic growth in the period. This includes in cable pay-TV, telephony, mobile, and internet, as well as a growing proportion of multi-play subscribers. Organic growth over the past year is particularly significant given the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

WELL-DIVERSIFIED BUSINESS

Today, United Group is a well-diversified business with leading market positions in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece.

In the first quarter of 2021, the Company’s Bulgarian operator Vivacom generated 29% of Group revenues, followed by Telemach Slovenia at 14%, Greece’s Forthnet also at 14%, SBB Serbia at 13%, and Telemach Croatia at 10%. Telemach BH and Telemach Montenegro each contributed less than 5% of Group revenue.

United Group’s media arm United Media contributed 13% of total Group revenues in the quarter.

The largest contributions to consolidated EBITDA in the quarter came from Vivacom (34%), SBB (17%), United Media (14%) and Telemach Slovenia (13%).

 

IMPORTANT MILESTONES

United Group realised important milestones in each of the new markets it has entered in the past year. In Q1 2021 the Group rebranded Tele2 Croatia to Telemach Croatia and launched a new strategy for the business, leveraging its experience with the highly successful integration of Slovenia’s Tušmobil, now Telemach Slovenia. This included the rollout of Croatia’s first 10G fibre optic network, providing superfast broadband internet.

United Group also unveiled a new strategy for Vivacom in Bulgaria in the first quarter of 2021 that includes a refresh of the Vivacom brand and the introduction there of the Group’s EON platform, one of the most popular television and internet platforms in the region.

The Group also made acquisitions in Bulgaria in late 2020 and early 2021 to strengthen the United Media business. They included the country’s largest media company Nova Broadcasting Group and the Vestnik Telegraf newspaper business.

In other markets, at the end of 2020 Telemach Slovenia became the country’s leader in broadband internet access, making it one of only a few alternative operators in Europe to overtake their market’s former monopolist. The company also successfully grew its market share in mobile communications to around 25%, passing the milestone of 600,000 users

The positive momentum in United Group’s growth has been underpinned by a sustained programme of investments that are also preparing it for further growth in the future. Capital Expenditures for full-year 2020 increased by 57.3% to €310.2 million and by 57.9% to €91.3 million in the first quarter of 2021.

The Group continues to invest across the region, including in fixed and mobile networks as well as in the media business. This includes a €500-million programme announced in March to support its rollout of a next-generation fibre network across Southeast Europe, to allow it to bring new ultra-broadband and 10Gbps services to millions of additional residential and business users.

United Group is accelerating its rollout of 5G mobile services in Southeast Europe, spending €51.6 million to acquire new frequencies for Telemach Slovenia in Slovenia’s 5G auction and €2.3 million in Bulgaria’s 5G auction, both of which occurred in April.

In late 2020 United Group also entered the e-commerce space by launching its Shoppster.com platform in Serbia and Slovenia. Through this greenfield initiative, United Group is looking to further leverage its unique telco-media ecosystem and create new revenue streams in this fast evolving and exciting space.

“Positive trends continue across the board. We are very optimistic about the future of the company and are taking proactive steps to future proof the business,” Boklag said.

 

CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL RESULTS FOR FULL-YEAR 2020 and Q1 2021

Consolidated financial results are for the full year ended December 31, 2020, and the first quarter of 2021.

 Revenue for 2020 increased by 56.5% to €1,161.3 million, from €741.8 million in 2019 while revenue for the first quarter of 2021 increased by 126.5% to €439.4 million from €194.0 million in the first quarter of 2020. Accounting for FY contribution of the acquired companies, the annualized Revenues (PF L2QA) as of March 2021 amounted to €1,928 million.

 Adjusted EBITDA increased by 52.5% to €481.3 million in 2020, from €315.6 million in 2019, while Adjusted EBITDA in the first quarter of 2021 increased by 111.8% to €179.2 million in the first quarter of 2021, from €84.6 million in the first quarter of 2020. Similarly, PF for the acquisitions, the annualized Adjusted EBITDA (PF L2QA) as of March 2021 amounted to €763 million.

 Investments (Capital Expenditures) increased by 57.3% to €310.2 million in 2020, from €197.2 million in 2019, while Capital Expenditures for the first quarter of 2021 increased 57.9% to €91.3 million in the first quarter of 2021 compared to €57.8 million in the first quarter of 2020.

This resulted in Cash Conversion (Adjusted EBITDA less Capital Expenditures) of €171.1 million in 2020 compared to €118.4 million in 2019 and an increase to €87.9 million in the first quarter of 2021, from €26.8 million in the first quarter of 2020.

Additional details on the company’s performance can be found on the United Group website at [LINK].

About United Group:

Headquartered in the Netherlands, United Group is the leading telecommunications and media operator in Southeast Europe. Operating in eight countries, the company has nearly 11 million customers and over 12,500 employees. United Group has the widest network coverage in this region and offers to its consumers the most attractive selection of TV content from around the world. Significant investments in digital infrastructure, content and technology guarantee the quality of the products and services offered. Since March 2019, majority owner of United Group is BC Partners - one of the biggest global investment companies.

For more information visit: https://united.group/ and http://www.unitedmedia.net

[1] Pro forma last two quarters annualized (PF L2QA) revenue as of Q1 2021 of €1,928m
[2] Pro forma last two quarters annualized (PF L2QA) EBITDA as of Q1 2021

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