BELIZE CITY, Sat. Feb. 20, 2021– This past weekend, Belize Telemedia Limited hosted a virtual annual general meeting (AGM) with its newly appointed board of directors. Markhelm Lizarraga, who under the previous UDP administration was a senator representing the business community, headed the meeting as the new chairman of the board of directors of the country’s largest telecom company. At the AGM shareholders were presented with soberingly low numbers in profits, and also a new roadmap.
“In addition to an outstanding liability of $19 million in unpaid dividends to the Government of Belize, there were unrealistic expense-provisioning for bad debts. This inadequacy contributed to an overly aggressive and unrealistic portrayal of profits over the periods 2018-2019, and 2019-2020,” Chairman Lizarraga shared.
The Chairman informed shareholders that the company had to engage in extensive cost-cutting measures to arrive at the profits for this year, just $2.5 million. This is a decrease from nearly $17 million dollars in the previous fiscal year — a 77% drop. Chairman Lizarraga also mentioned that the expenses of the company have “outpaced” its increased investment in capital, capital investments and sales.
Over the past ten years, the company has invested about $468 million in various network infrastructure advancements. The CEO of BTL, Ivan Tesecum, explained that those investments, which have since depleted the cash reserves of the company, led to an extension on BTL’s long-term loan portfolio and pushed the company to utilize overdraft facilities, but that these costly initiatives have not yet yielded the expected increase in revenue.
“When you invest in infrastructure, the goal of it is to be able to increase the revenues. And what does this show? Well, what the current graph shows is that whilst there has been significant growth in the network infrastructure, the growth in revenues, year to year, has fluctuated, and in some years, been negative. And that can be seen from 2015 to 2019, where you see a steep decline in the overall growth of gross revenues,” CEO Tesecum said.
He outlined that the decrease in prices can be attributed to their competition. He pointed out that due to a “race to the bottom on prices”, the revenue growth of the company was impacted, and as mentioned the growing expenses over the past 10 years had an overall adverse effect on the profitability of the company.
“So, this decrease in net profitability, again, is due to the fact that the expenses have been greater than the growth in revenues,” he said.
Despite these dismal realities, the company is poised to make a comeback with new revenue opportunities, according to the CEO. He shared that they will tap into the expected burst in digitization of small businesses.
“We believe that we are well-poised with our suite of services, and new services that we need to bring in to be able to offer. E-commerce is something big for us. Digi Home, we’ll begin offering services that go into the home as well. And lastly, I think one of the most exciting ones is the Digi wallet, a mobile financial services platform that we’ll be offering that will allow us to be able to use our cell phones as your new wallet,” CEO Tesecum said.
Chairman Lizarraga went on to reassure shareholders that while there are challenges ahead that the company will face, given the current economic conditions, they will remain optimistic about BTL’s future.
“Despite these circumstances, we remain optimistic about BTL’s future. BTL has been and is a resilient company with a stronghold in Belize’s marketplace,” Chairman Lizarraga said.