On 16 March, GO plc published its 2009 financial statements showing a 4.5% decline in turnover amounting to €123.7 million as the Group was negatively effected by the international economic climate, the increased competitive environment and by the impact of regulation and certain tariffs. However, revenue from core activities remained strong and the Group continues to offset the decline of traditional fixed-line voice services by maximizing the growth opportunities of broadband and TV services. In fact the Group stated that it registered a growth in its broadband, TV and mobile client base and at year end (31 December 2009) the total customer base amounted to 480,000 – an increase of 22,000 customers over 2008. Also, GO stated that it was positively impacted by the results of the BM Group, the data centre operation in which GO acquired a 60% shareholding in April 2009. However the Group explained that the last two financial years were impacted by various one-off transactions primarily the charges for voluntary retirement costs of €11.5 million (2008: €2 million), a decrease in provision for pensions of €0.3 million (2008: an increase of €12.9 million), impairment loss on receivables of €3.1 million (2008: €0.3 million) and release of financial liabilities of €3.2 million (2008: €0.2 million). The Group achieved a normalized EBITDA of €42.6 million representing an EBITDA margin of 34.4%, representing a decline of 18.4% from the EBITDA of €52.2 million in 2008. GO assured shareholders that its cost base during 2009 remained stable and the only cost increases were related to revenue growth areas such as TV and the costs related to the BM Group which were reflected for the first time in 2009. The voluntary retirement costs of €11.5 million related to the early retirement of almost 300 employees should deliver a significantly lower cost base in the coming years.
GO’s results were also negatively impacted by the Group’s share of the results of the Greek telecoms company Forthnet SA. Forthnet also published its 2009 full-year results on 16 March. Forthnet announced that it incurred a reduced pre-tax loss of €40.5 million during 2009 compared to the loss of €54.6 million in 2008. Forthnet however stated that the consolidation of the PayTV results and the continued improvement of the Telecoms results contributed to a significant improvement in the Group’s revenues of 72.8%, while the adjusted EBITDA reached €64.9 million (2008: €15.4 million). The Group is estimated to have an overall market share of 32% at the end of 2009 and Forthnet’s CEO Pantelis Tzortzakis confirmed recently during a meeting that the company experienced its best ever quarterly performance during the final three months of 2009 despite the adverse economic environment. He also claimed that the company is performing exceptionally well in the broadband segment with subscriber growth exceeding expectations having increased to 364,419 (2008: 274,150 subscribers). The Forthnet Group stated that in the fourth quarter of 2009 the EBITDA margin was influenced by high advertising, Subscriber Acquisition Costs and a number of exceptional items. The Group expects the EBITDA margin for the first quarter of 2010 to improve significantly.
The GO Group incurred a pre-tax loss of €3.2 million (2008: Profit of €0.3 million) resulting in loss per share of €0.066 (2008: +€0.02).
GO recommended the payment of a final net dividend of €0.10 per share (2008: €0.12 per share) to those shareholders as at close of trading on Tuesday 13 April 2010. This dividend is being put forward for approval by shareholders at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting to be held on 17 May and will then be payable on 21 May 2010.