Tale of a state money making machine

BTCL faces worst ever losses of Tk546 crore in FY13 as international call services go private

Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Limited (BTCL) has incurred a loss of Tk546 crore in the last fiscal year worst in the company’s history as earnings from international calls dropped sharply.

The state-owned company faced the setback for second time in last 15 years after 2007-08 when it posted a loss of Tk190 crore.

In 2012-13, they earned Tk1,056 crore but spent Tk1,602 crore while the income falling about 58% short of the target of Tk2,498 crore as stated in the draft annual report obtained by Dhaka Tribune.

The setback is due to massive privatisation of most of the international call termination services, officials said.

During the period, BTCL earned only over Tk401 crore from foreign market, which is only little over 37% of previous year’s earnings of Tk1,070 crore.

In 2008-09, the company had earned Tk1,237.6 crore highest from international call termination. The income from local market increased marginally, however, to Tk654 crore in 2012-13 from Tk632 crore in 2011-12.

“Frequent policy shifts have made us nearly bankrupt,” a high official of BTCL told Dhaka Tribune, wishing anonymity. “Once, we were the lone stakeholder to maintain the international calls. Now there are another 28 private players. Most of them are not real players. How then we can maintain the income?”

BTCL Managing Director SOM Kalim Ullah would not, however, comment to explain the reasons behind the setback.

In 2008, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission had permitted three private international gateway (IGW) operators and 25 more in 2012. It was due to short capacity of the lone operator BTCL to handle huge international calls, officials said.

There were also allegations of misappropriation of fund earned through the international calls.

At least six of the private IGWs have already been blocked for being default of a payment of more than Tk600 crore as revenue sharing, indicating that the private operators were making money but not sharing it with the national exchequer.

“This is our money. These calls can be terminated through us,” said the BTCL high official.

Meanwhile, state-owned land phone operator lost some of its subscribers.

They had 935,760 subscribers in June last year, which came down to 903,299 in June this year.

Four other state-owned telecommunication companies, however, recorded profit in the last fiscal year though marginally.

Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL) registered a net profit of Tk109.59 crore against a revenue income of Tk144.15 crore, according to a report released by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication on the government’s five years success.

Teletalk, the lone state-owned mobile phone operator, earned a net profit of Tk60 crore from total revenue of Tk660 crore.

Telephone Shipa Sangstha made Tk70.46 lakh in net profit from a revenue of Tk68.07 crore, gradually recovering from a losing concern only three years back.

Bangladesh Cable Shilpa Limited (BCSL), the smallest company, earned Tk45.35 crore and recorded a net profit of Tk9.12 crore.

Source: Dhaka Tribune