We will make Proximus the reference operator in Europe
2019 was an important turning point for Proximus. We successfully built further on our ambition to become a truly digital-centric organization. At the same time, the market in which we operate is changing faster than ever before. Customer expectations are on the rise in a world of exponential technological advances while we face growing competition from new players and current market trends that are very challenging.
In the previous years, during the mandate of Dominique Leroy we achieved excellent financial and operational results. Our company has been going through a profound transformation along with the adoption of a new company culture. All these changes were successfully introduced, for which we are truly grateful to Dominique Leroy. We would also like to express our gratitude towards our CFO Sandrine Dufour for her intense and active role as CEO ad interim during the transition period. Now, under the leadership of the new CEO, Guillaume Boutin, the team will be able to continue working on these foundations in order to prepare our future. To answer the fast- changing customer needs efficiently and remain relevant in the market, we will continue to invest in networks, IT, innovation and content.
The approval of the transformation plan and the last year changes in our executive committee create the momentum to set the bar higher and truly accelerate Proximus’ transformation through an ambitious, purpose-driven future strategy. This strategy will set us up for a successful turn- around to make Proximus the reference operator in Europe. We will set a higher level of ambition: by investing in next-generation networks, we will create long-term value and change the market dynamics fundamentally, while managing the short-term and mid-term competitiveness.
More than ever, the future of the company will be worked on with positive energy and ambition. This is a new starting point for our company, customers, stakeholders and employees.
Full-year results in line with our guidance
We delivered full-year results in line with our guidance through a sustained customer growth and continued strong focus on our costs. We posted nearly stable Domestic revenue when excluding terminal sales (-1.2%), and a stable underlying Group EBITDA (+0.3%). We maintained our high investments pace with EUR 1,027 million (stable vs 2018) invested with a clear focus on digitalization, networks and overall customer experience. We also invested extensively in our IT platforms, the ongoing multi-year modernization of our transport network and attractive content for our TV customers.
Towards true customer centricity
2019 was the year in which we laid the foundation to achieve our future ambition: to transform into a truly customer- centric digital company and to become the reference operator in Europe. We reached multiple milestones that helped us pave the way towards that ambition. These milestones live up to Proximus’ new brand promise: “Think possible”. By embracing the digital revolution, we confidently guide our customers through all changes and possibilities and offer them worry-free experiences.
In the residential market, we fully commit ourselves to address the digital needs of all consumers - and create relevant daily experiences - on content, but also on helping them manage their daily lives. Key to this success is our openness towards innovative partnerships, e.g. with Shadow for cloud gaming and with the newspapers Het Laatste Nieuws and Le Soir for My e-Press. Such innovations keep us relevant and attractive for customers, as our solid results in Mobile, Internet and TV show.
Although we have a strong position in the enterprise market, we need to continue to reinvent ourselves to remain successful. To unlock the digital potential of our enterprise customers, we launched Proximus Accelerators: a partnership which brings together the wide-ranging expertise of Proximus and its subsidiaries in the domain of ICT. They support companies in their digital transformation by creating a fully integrated ICT experience support. To leverage the value of our network, we continued to develop our wholesale business with already 20 fiber contracts in 2019.
Our goal is to embed digital in everything we do. By adding new servicing features to MyProximus, the customer tool to easily manage products and services, we take customer experience to a higher level for both residential and professional customers. Digital is also key to increase internal efficiency in customer operations: the use of automation, advanced analytics and artificial intelligence enables us to make our operations more efficient and offer better service.
Data consumption continues to grow exponentially, driven by video and gaming. Considerable investments will secure Proximus leading position in technology. We rolled out fiber already in 13 cities while also continuing to improve the speed on copper. The preparation of 5G will secure our mobile leadership on the long term - backed by the mobile access network sharing deal with Orange Belgium.
Guillaume Boutin, CEO
With our new brand promise - Think possible - we want to inspire Belgians by showing them all the possibilities that the latest technologies offer. We want to empower everyone to realize their potential with our products and services.
Empowering our organization to secure our future
To achieve our future ambitions, we need to empower our employees and our organization. The approval of our transformation plan, at year-end, was an important milestone for two reasons: to remain relevant for customers while securing our future.
In January 2019, we announced the need to reduce the number of employees over 3 years. We are well aware this period has not been easy for many of our employees. We are sincerely thankful for their continued commitment during this period of uncertainty. We are also grateful that the negotiations with the concerned trade union partners have led to finding solutions to reduce the impact of the plan, in everyone’s interest. We will continue to guide and support all people impacted by the transformation plan.
The transformation plan also enables us to build the future of Proximus by developing the right skills with specific programs for the reskilling and upskilling of our teams. In 2019 each employee followed an average of 4.7 days of training. In order to make our employees even more resilient and digitally savvy, we aim for an average of 5.5 training days per employee in 2020, which amounts to an investment of more than EUR 40 million.
In order to remain competitive, we also improve cost efficiency. Various projects have already been launched — to increase operational efficiency, to manage electricity consumption, to optimize suppliers’ contracts, etc.
Sustainability, a strategic priority
As a company strongly rooted in Belgium, we want to make an impact on society by creating a safe, sustainable, inclusive and prosperous digital Belgium. The new digital economy is creating a lot of new opportunities, but it also brings new challenges and responsibilities. By integrating sustainability in our strategy, we make it a visible priority in everything we do.
Our new sustainability strategy, acting upon the UN Sustainable Development Goals, has an increased focus on climate action. In our contribution to a circular economy, we want to move from a carbon-neutral company today to a net positive and truly circular company by 2030. We signed the Green Deal Flanders & Wallonia on circular procurement, and — amongst others — introduced green supply initiatives in several cities.
To drive digital inclusion in society, we reviewed our education projects: we partnered with the MolenGeek coding school, developed further our partnership with School 19 and launched ‘diggit’, a new educational program for kids helping seniors to go digital.
We strongly believe that embracing diversity is a key to success. Therefore, we still support the European #EmbraceDifference pledge, committing ourselves to welcome a wide range of diverse talent — regardless of their gender, culture, age, … We do so by being open and non- restrictive in our communication, marketing and recruiting campaigns. In 2019, we hosted major conferences on diversity & inclusion and on unconscious bias, co-organized with Jump and Women on Board.
Convinced to make the turnaround
Looking at all what we have achieved in 2019, we are convinced that we can be successful in becoming Europe’s reference operator.
In the coming years we will increase our efforts to adapt our IT infrastructure and deploy the networks of the future with Fiber and 5G in order to offer our customers the experience and service they expect from us. Proximus will become the brand of reference and trust in Belgium, offering a visibly superior customer experience and service – especially in digital. Cybersafety for all our customers will of course be a major ambition. Local ecosystems and new partnerships will be key for our success and they will help us to develop new economic models. And finally, even more than today, we ambition to create a positive impact on the world around us and play our part in bridging the digital divide, providing opportunities for all digital talents and encouraging circular economy models.
We firmly believe in the opportunities of digitalization, whether for our company, our customers or the world around us. This is illustrated by the launch of "Think possible", which represents, beyond our new brand promise, a proof of confidence in the future.
Stefaan De Clerck, Chairman
We want to be a leading company in addressing climate change. We are also committed to build trust in digital and drive digital inclusion in Belgium.