Broadband the bright spot for Pacific Internet

Regional Asian ISP (Internet service provider) Pacific Internet Ltd. (PI) has more than doubled its broadband subscriber base in the last three months, keeping it on track to achieve profitability by the end of next year, the company has announced.

Revenue for the second quarter ended June 30 reached US$20 million, 23.5 percent higher than in the first quarter, with the number of broadband subscribers rising from 4,400 to 9,000. Corporate broadband growth was strong in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia, and revenue from corporate, as opposed to consumer, business grew by 27.8 percent from the previous quarter, the company said in a statement.

Nasdaq-listed PI posted a loss of US$3.1 million for the quarter, slightly less than the $3.3 million loss in the first quarter. But the company improved its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for the third quarter running, to 2.1 million, Ko Kheng Hwa, PI chairman, said in the statement.

PI will focus on broadband services, corporate customers, end-to-end Internet services and electronic business going forward, but has scaled back its direct telecommunication operations, Ko said in the statement. The company has been operating an international direct dial service, for which rates in Singapore have plummeted since the market was liberalized last year.

PI now has 387,000 subscribers for its Internet access service in six countries -- Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and India. Late last year, the company announced it would hold off planned expansion into Japan and South Korea. Revenue from consumer Internet access has fallen sharply with the introduction by competitors of free ISP services, the company has previously said.

The company has recently won a number of tenders to provide electronic data services to the Singapore government and its statutory boards, according to the statement. PI's major shareholders are SembCorp Industries Ltd. and Singapore International Media Pte. Ltd. Both of these companies are effectively controlled by Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited, the principal holding company of the government of Singapore, according to PI's Web site.

In February 2000, PI's stock price on Nasdaq was US$79, but the company was caught up in the Internet-related stock crash, and its share price was $2.62 at the close of trading Wednesday.

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David Legard

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