Norwegian telco Telenor has said that its underperforming Pakistan business will continue to be a tough market for the company during 2023.
The operator made the comments during its fourth-quarter earnings call.
Telenor's EVP and chief financial officer Tone Hegland Bachke said that macroeconomic challenges have put pressure on its Pakistani business, with a 17 percent drop in EBITDA noted during the last quarter.
Commenting further in response to a question about Telenor's Pakistan business for 2023, Bachke said: "In Pakistan, yes, we are still in a challenging environment, that being interest rates, that being energy, currency, and all the macro effects that we see. How it's going to develop this year, it's too early for us to say."
It's been well documented that Telenor is keen to depart from the Pakistan market, with the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd (PTCL) reported to be recently preparing a non-binding offer to buy Telenor Pakistan.
The Norwegian company was inviting bids of $1 billion last year, while PTCL is reportedly readying a bid between $800 million to $1.2 billion.
During the call, Telenor said it wasn't commenting on the recent reports linking it with a sale, but did add that 'it is looking at different options for Pakistan going forward'.
Meanwhile, the company's Bangladesh business unit Grameenphone reported an EBITDA growth of four percent, despite a recent SIM card ban that was lifted at the beginning of last month.
The operator was slapped with a SIM ban in June 2022 because of its quality of network service.
"The issue we have had in Bangladesh over the last half year, as I guess, you know, is the SIM ban. We were not allowed to sell SIM due to the regulators' view on our quality of service, meaning the network quality," said Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke.
"Fortunately, we have now been able to agree with the regulator on that. So we are back in full force also on the sales side. So that's why you see that we were affected both in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter due to the SIM being banned. But now we are back in a more normalized situation when it comes to taking our fair share of the subscriber growth."
Telenor also noted that it's close to finalizing its merger in Thailand, which is set to merge its DTAC business with Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group), and China Mobile-backed True.
Completion of the CelcomDigi merger in Malaysia led to a gain of NOK 33 billion ($3.25bn), and a record net income of NOK 45 billion ($4.4bn) for the full year.