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Optus first quarter balances out: postpaid up, prepaid down



Image: Optus

Optus has registered a first quarter that saw the Singaporean-owned Australian telco win in some areas, while losing in others.

Overall, the company reported revenue increased 3.3% to AU$2.25 billion for the quarter, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) increased by almost 5% to $687 million. Once depreciation and amortisation are taken into account, the EBIT number is down by 19% compared to the first quarter of last year to $231 million, a AU$55 million drop.

That drop then flows through to underlying net profit and net profit, which were reported as being AU$117 million and AU$105 million respectively, representing 29% and 32% decreases on last year.

Optus’ consumer mobile business saw its overall revenue grow by 8% to AU$1.94 billion, with mobile service revenue dropping 7% to AU$855 million, but it rose by 7% when including equipment sales which grew from AU$396 million to AU$551 million.

Compared to last quarter, the telco said it lost 52,000 prepaid customers, added 50,000 postpaid customers, and 3,000 mobile broadband customers. Overall, the telco now has 3.37 million prepaid customers, 5.73 postpaid customers, and 1.18 million mobile broadband customers.

All three categories experienced drops in average revenue per user, with postpaid and mobile broadband down 11% each to AU$38 and AU$19 a month respectively, and prepaid down 5% to AU$18.

Revenue from fixed services was down 5% to AU$434 million, while payments from the National Broadband Network (NBN) increased from AU$24 million to AU$98 million. Optus said it added 49,000 new NBN customers this quarter taking it to 646,000 in total.

The telco added it now has 700,000 active subscribers to its Optus Sport service.

Optus Business saw its revenue drop 22% to AU$135 million, which the telco pinned to a large sale in the corresponding quarter and weaker demand from government and finance sectors, which saw EBITDA drop by 34% to AU$38 million.

Optus now has over 1,000 less people than at this time last year, with its headcount as of June 30 sitting at 7,114 compared to 8,146 a year prior. Consequently, Optus saw its staff costs drop by 20%.

“In the face of a challenging competitive market, Optus has delivered a set of numbers underpinned by customer growth from our investment in a premium national network and the continued execution of our exclusive content strategy,” Optus CEO Allen Lew said.

“With over 700,000 active Optus Sport subscribers, and record numbers viewing the Champions League final, we are poised to continue this momentum into the fourth season of the Premier League which kicks off exclusively on Optus Sport this weekend.”

Last week, rating agency S&P shifted its outlook on Optus to negative, as it restated its A long-term and A-1 short-term issuer credit ratings of the company.

“In Australia, we expect generally flat EBITDA (excluding NBN migration revenue) as rising costs diminish topline growth,” the agency said.

“NBN migration revenue will prop up Optus’ cash flow, after the NBN lifted a temporary suspension of migration to its hybrid fiber-coaxial network.”

Releasing its results at the same time, Optus owner Singtel reported stable revenue of SG$4.1 billion for the quarter, EBITDA down 2% to SG$1.18 billion, and net profit down 35% to SG$541 million.

Earlier this week, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took credit for identifying an outage issue impacting Optus NBN customers.

In its latest Measuring Broadband Australia report, Optus had an outage figure at least five times higher than its competitors, recording over 2.5 average daily outages lasting over 30 seconds compared to the rest of the industry that sat at around 0.5 outages or lower.

“Even though the average Optus subscriber experienced 2.6 outages per day, 81% of these outages lasted for less than a minute, and 90% lasted for less than 2 minutes. Furthermore, these figures are based on data collected during May,” the ACCC said.

“Since the data were collected, Optus has distributed a firmware update to its modems which was intended to reduce the rate of outages. Data collected during the first two weeks of July 2019 provides preliminary indication that this was successful; Optus’ average during this period was 0.5 outages per day, in line with other RSPs.”

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2021 Kia Niro Hybrid and Niro PHEV gets new tech and safety updates



The 2021 Kia Niro Hybrid and Niro PHEV are soldiering on with a couple of new safety and technology features. Kia updated the Niro’s styling last year, and the changes carry over to the 2021 model. The Niro may not be the roomiest or best-handling crossover on the road, but it easily achieves 43 to 50 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

New for the 2021 Kia Niro and Kiro PHEV is a rear occupant alert system, a new 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display, and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. Vehicles equipped with Kia’s Smart Key now have a remote engine start feature. Meanwhile, Niro models with navigation get ten years of complimentary MapCare updates.

Moreover, both the Niro Hybrid and Niro plug-in-hybrid also get navigation-based smart cruise control with a ‘curve’ function. The latter automatically applies the brakes to reduce vehicle speed upon entering a corner. The Niro is comprehensively equipped with top-notch safety and driver assistive features like forward collision avoidance, blindspot detection, lane keeping assist, smart cruise control, and a rearview camera, to name just a few.

The 2021 Kia Niro Hybrid remains motivated by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor pumping out a combined 139 horsepower, all of which are sent to the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox. It also has a 1.56 kWh lithium-ion polymer hybrid battery pack sending juice to the small electric motor.

On the other hand, the 2021 Kia Niro PHEV has the same gasoline engine and electric motor as the hybrid version producing 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. The difference is a larger 8.9 kWh battery pack, allowing 26 miles of all-electric range before the battery runs out of juice. The Niro PHEV is EPA-rated at 46 mpg.

The 2021 Kia Niro Hybrid is available in five trim models: LX, LXS, Touring, Touring SE, and EX Premium. Base prices start at $25,865 (an increase of $100 over last year’s model), while the top-of-the-line Niro Hybrid EX Premium starts at $34,125 (inclusive of $1,175 destination fees).

If you like the 2021 Kia Niro PHEV, you can choose from three available trims: LXS, EX, and EX Premium, with base prices starting at $30,765. Both the Niro Hybrid and Niro PHEV are available to order now. The new 2021 all-electric Niro EV is also coming later this year.

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The final phase of Ram’s limited-edition “Build to Serve” truck line launches



Ram has been building special limited edition “Build to Serve” trucks to celebrate the United States Armed Forces. So far, the automaker has built these special trucks to honor all five branches of the United States Armed Forces. The fifth and final installment in the series introduces 500 units in a color called Spitfire and 750 in Bright White.

The military branch-inspired interior will be available in showrooms starting in Q2 of 2021. The Built to Serve edition’s fifth installment offers a maritime force-inspired theme with both exterior color options featuring a black interior with orange accent stitching. With the fifth and final version of the truck revealed, each of the five US military service branches has been honored by Ram with two specially selected exterior paint colors meant to evoke the spirit, mission, and history of that service.

Built to Serve edition Ram trucks were made in the following numbers and colors. Ram made 1000 units in Gator and 1000 in Diamond Black Crystal. Ram produced 1000 in Ceramic Gray and 1000 in Patriot Blue. 1250 units were built in Anvil with 1500 produced in Billet Silver Metallic.

In the series, 1000 trucks were made in Tank and 1000 in Flame Red. This fifth and final installment are the rarest of the special edition trucks, with only 500 produced in Spitfire and 750 made in Bright White. All Built to Serve trucks get 20-inch aluminum wheels with a unique Technical Gray finish along with body-color wheel flares.

All the trucks feature unique Built to Serve instrument panel badging, optional lockable center storage console, deeply bolstered cloth and vinyl sport seats, black onyx chrome interior trim, and all-weather slush mats. The trucks also include the 4×4 Off-Road Group and are available on all body styles and with all powertrains.

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Manhart MH3 600 and MH4 600 are spicier versions of BMW’s M3 and M4



German tuning brand Manhart has a nifty pair of new BMWs to call its own: The MH3 600 and MH4 600. Based on the all-new G80 BMW M3 sedan and G82 M4 coupe, both the MH3 600 and MH4 600 receive a plethora of upgrades, including a 600-plus horsepower turbocharged inline-six motor.

Manhart starts with the 2021 M3 and M4 Competition models, both pumping out 510 horsepower from the factory. After installing a Manhart MHtronik Powerbox, the inline-six motor has a new maximum output of 620+ horsepower, around 100 more horses than stock. Additionally, you have 553 pound-feet of torque at your disposal.

The mods include a Manhart Performance cat-back or OPF-back exhaust system with twin carbon tailpipes to unleash those spent gasses. According to Manhart, their Mhtronik Powerbox is also applicable to a standard M3 or M4, allowing the motor to churn out 590 horsepower. If you’re keeping count, that’s 117 more horsepower than a typical M3’s 473-horsepower output. Nice.

Other upgrades include new H&R lowering springs, staggered Concave One forged wheels developed in-house by Manhart, and a sprinkling of carbon-fiber exterior bits to improve aerodynamics, including a new hood, front splitter, rear spoiler, and rear diffuser. Manhart is also developing a unique set of side flaps for MH3 600 and MH4 600.

Of course, no Manhart creation is complete without a set of body decals. You get a gold decal kit for the MH3 600 and MH4 600, including side stripes and racing stripes. What’s more, you can have gold pinstriping on the wheels if you like a bit more bling in your Bimmer.

The 2021 BMW M3 and M4 (including the 4-Series in general) were targets of blatant criticism upon debuting last year, and it all has something to do with that oversized kidney grille. But looking at Manhart’s MH3 600 and MH4 600, the stealthy vibe fits both vehicles quite well. Dare we say Manhart has sorted out the M3 and M4’s polarizing façade?

And when you think about it, Manhart isn’t done with the M3 and M4. The 600-horsepower upgrade is only Phase 1 of the tuning program. Phase 2 involves more power, more noise, and more ridiculous exterior appendages, and we can’t wait to check it out soon.

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