Find the rough path. Stay on it.

I welcomed 2019 at a reindeer camp in Malangen in Troms, well north of the Arctic circle. Norway’s extreme geography makes efficient and reliable communication paramount to maintaining a well-functioning modern society. This is true also for the other markets and millions of customers Telenor serves from Svalbard to Borneo.

Our continued exploration and adaptation to changing conditions means we entered our 164th year of operations rigged and prepared for what’s ahead.

Se oftere mot nord.
Gå mot vinden, du får rødere kinn.
Finn den ulendte stien. Hold den.
Den er kortere.
Nord er best.
Vinterens flammevirvel,
sommernattens mirakel

Gå mot vinden, klyv berg.
Se mot nord.
Det er langt dette landet.
Det meste er nord.

(Rolf Jakobsen)

A perfect storm which requires collaboration and upskilling

We’re heading into a “perfect storm” of technologies that are likely to accelerate the digitalisation of our societies. Enabling technologies like 5G and Internet of Things will lead to an explosion in data that can be turned into actionable insights using artificial intelligence. This means that companies and societies need to adapt; building new competencies and working in new ways. Telecoms companies are well positioned to drive and facilitate this change. Telenor aims to be a trusted partner as our customers and societies continue to digitalise.

This is why we’ve challenged all our employees to spend at least 40 hours per year on upskilling themselves in critical competencies, and why we focus on building diverse and inclusive teams at all levels of the organisation. In 2018, more than 1,500 people had started working in agile ways and the average number of hours spent on online training was well above the target. These efforts are also essential in modernising Telenor.

Connecting you to what matters most. Empowering societies.

Trust is more important and shorter in supply than ever. Telenor takes great pride and places significant resources in upholding and helping raise standards wherever we operate. While we’re pleased to see customers are confident in our brands’ ability to handle their personal data, we know trust is easily lost. We continue strengthening our efforts within sustainability, security, privacy and governance to ensure we’re able to live up to the promise.

On track halfway into the strategy period

2018 was an eventful year with many important milestones for Telenor Group. Step by step, we’ve continued to deliver on the 2020 strategy communicated at the Capital Markets Day in February 2017. Growth, efficiency and simplification continue to be the key elements of our strategic direction. During 2018, we have reduced our operational costs by 3 per cent, or NOK 1.2 billion. We continue our efforts to modernise Telenor, by upgrading our infrastructure, simplifying the corporate structure, improving efficiency through structural initiatives, digitalising customer journeys and adding new competencies within areas like artificial intelligence, robotics and security.

Simplifying our portfolio and processes

During the past couple of years, we have taken important steps to simplify our company portfolio: we have exited India, we are close to fully divested from VEON, and we have divested our operations in Central and Eastern Europe. We have sharpened our online marketplaces portfolio and we will continue to develop mobile financial services in Pakistan through our recently established joint venture with Ant Financials. We have largely completed the main steps towards portfolio simplification and will now continue to focus on how we simplify our business processes.

Solid performance and growth, increasing competition

Throughout the year we’ve seen solid results in Scandinavia both on the market and cost side. The new flexible mobile offering has been well received in Norway, and we maintained our revenue market share. Simplification of the subscription portfolio in Sweden and the radical transformation conducted in Denmark impacts positively. In Bangladesh and Pakistan we returned to strong revenue growth in the second half of the year, driven by customer growth. In Myanmar we’ve experienced increased competition following the entry of a fourth operator in the market – exacerbated by asymmetric regulations, which we had not predicted.

From concession to license in Thailand

In Thailand, 2018 has been a very special year for us as we transitioned from the concession model to a license model. Though we have been planning for this for several years, it has required a number of demanding processes and decisions in 2018. We believe we have emerged from this in a good way, securing a solid platform for both spectrum and infrastructure. We continue to maintain full focus on rolling out the 2.3 GHz network and we see promising results from speed measurements in areas where the new network is operating. When the network is fully operational, we will continue working towards targeted improvement of customer experience and market position.

Modernisation and renewal

Telenor’s strategic direction stands. During 2018, we upgraded the highest number of base stations in Telenor’s history. Our efforts towards digital transformation, simplification and efficiency continue, with an increasing focus on structural improvements. These efforts are essential to prepare ourselves for the future. We will work more targeted with our revenue renewal in 2019.

Towards north

Rolf Jakobsen’s poem “North” idolises the rugged and demanding conditions of Norway edging towards the Arctic. Among the reindeer at Malangen, I was reminded that though Telenor geographically is heading almost as much southwards and eastwards, our continuous efforts to simplify, improve and innovate embody a philosophy that is about taking not the easiest route – but the one we believe is right.

Sigve Brekke – President & CEO, Telenor Group