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VimpelCom announces fourth quarter and year end financial results

  • Net loss of $39.6 million for 1999
  • 183% Subscriber growth during 1999
  • 500,000 Subscribers as of today

Moscow and New York (April 14, 2000) - Open Joint Stock Company "Vimpel-Communications" ("VimpelCom" or the "Company") (NYSE: VIP) today announced financial results for the fourth quarter and twelve months ended December 31, 1999, as well as having reached the 500,000 subscriber benchmark as of April 14, 2000.

As of December 31, 1999, the number of subscribers in the Moscow license area, the Company's primary market, was approximately 350,500, an increase of 183% over the 124,000 subscribers reported at the end of 1998. Subscriber growth was particularly strong in the fourth quarter of 1999 as the number of VimpelCom's subscribers in the Moscow license area increased by approximately 78% from the 197,300 subscribers reported as of September 30, 1999. As of December 31, 1999, VimpelCom and its subsidiaries had approximately 21,800 subscribers outside of the Moscow license area, an increase of 90% over the subscriber number of 11,500 reported at the end of 1998.

During 1999, the coverage area of VimpelCom's Moscow GSM network increased more than tenfold, as the Company significantly increased its roaming agreements, which enabled GSM subscribers to roam in more than 61 countries worldwide. The build-out of the GSM network was a substantial factor in the Company increasing its Moscow GSM subscriber base to more than 132,000 subscribers as of December 31, 1999. This represents an increase of approximately 529% over the 21,000 GSM subscribers reported at the end of 1998 and an increase of approximately 135% over the 56,100 GSM subscribers reported at the end of the third quarter of 1999. As of December 31, 1999, VimpelCom's Moscow GSM subscribers constituted approximately 38% of the Company's total Moscow subscriber base, compared to 17% reported as of December 31, 1998. The Company expects GSM subscribers to constitute a larger portion of the Company's Moscow subscriber base in the future.

VimpelCom's overall subscriber base increased significantly in the fourth quarter of 1999 due to an influx of prepaid and GSM contract subscribers attracted by the Company's innovative marketing and promotional campaigns. As a result, prepaid subscribers totaled approximately 227,200 or approximately 65% of the total subscriber base at year end 1999, compared to 2,600 subscribers or 2% of the subscriber base at year end 1998.

VimpelCom estimates that as of December 31, 1999, its subscriber market share in Moscow was approximately 45%.

During 1999, VimpelCom experienced a significant reduction in its annual churn rate from a high of 54% in 1998 to 25% as of year end 1999. The Company retained a greater number of subscribers last year due to both economic stabilization in Russia and customer retention initiatives, which included segmented pricing and prepaid service alternatives which enabled subscribers to control their expenses more effectively.

VimpelCom's average monthly airtime usage per subscriber (MOU) in 1999 was 137 minutes, a decrease of approximately 54% from the 295 minutes reported for 1998. VimpelCom's average monthly revenue per user (ARPU) for 1999 was approximately $99, a 54% decrease from the $215 reported for the same period of 1998. MOU in the fourth quarter of 1999 was approximately 110 minutes, a decrease of approximately 50% from the 219 minutes for the same period of 1998. ARPU in the fourth quarter of 1999 was approximately $66, a decrease of 61% from the $172 reported for the same period of 1998. The declines in MOU and ARPU were due primarily to changes in the Company's subscriber mix that resulted from penetrating new segments of the market. While the development of the mass market segment resulted in a decrease of MOU and ARPU, VimpelCom's acquisition cost per subscriber decreased during 1999 due to the rapid increase in the number of subscribers and reduction in commissions, reaching approximately $124 per subscriber for the fourth quarter of 1999 compared to $280 per subscriber reported in the same period in 1998.

Commenting on today's announcement, Dmitri Zimin, President and Chief Executive Officer of VimpelCom said, "During 1999, we successfully launched our mass consumer market strategy that revolutionized how Russians view mobile communications, making cellular phones accessible to many new segments of the population. We invested approximately $40 million in 1999 in subscriber acquisition expenses alone, including distribution commissions, advertising and subsidies. In addition, we invested significant resources to building out our GSM-900 coverage on the Moscow network to catch up with the first GSM-licensee in Moscow. As a result of the rapid growth, we ended the year with a net loss and a decline in EBITDA over 1998. Having built out our GSM-900 network and reached the 500,000 subscriber benchmark, we remain committed to our strategy of rapid growth and regaining a significant portion of the GSM "heavy user" and corporate customer segment. While we expect to continue to experience pressure on the bottom line in 2000, our growing subscriber base will enable us to increase revenues from not only voice traffic, but also from value-added services, including, in the future, wireless Internet access and content delivery using SMS and WAP."

VimpelCom's total operating revenues for the twelve months ended December 31, 1999 were $238.6 million, a 37% decrease compared to $376.0 million reported at the end of 1998. Total net operating revenues (net of revenue-based taxes) for 1999 were $226.4 million, a 37% decrease compared to $361.0 million reported at the end of 1998. The Company's operating loss for 1999 was $29.1 million, compared to operating income of $101.8 million reported at the end of 1998. EBITDA for the twelve months ended December 31, 1999 was $25.7 million, 82% lower than the $144.1 million reported at the end of 1998. As of December 31, 1999 EBITDA margin was approximately 11%, a decrease from the 40% reported at the end of 1998. Net loss for 1999 was $39.6 million, or a loss of $1.71 per share ($1.28 per ADS) compared with a net loss of $4.7 million, or a loss of $0.24 per share ($0.18 per ADS) reported at the end of 1998. Each ADS represents 0.75 of one share of VimpelCom's common stock.

Despite the decreasing average acquisition cost per new subscriber, a large increase in subscribers in the fourth quarter of 1999 resulted in a substantial increase in total acquisition expenses and a decrease of EBITDA for 1999.

Selling, general and administrative expenses for the year ended December 31, 1999 were $88.7 million, 5% lower than the $93.5 million reported for 1998. As a percentage of net revenue in 1999, selling, general and administrative expenses for the year increased to 39.2% from 25.9% in 1998. Selling, general and administrative expenses for the fourth quarter of 1999 increased 78% to $34.1 million compared to the $19.1 million reported in 1998. This increase was driven primarily by an absolute increase in subscriber acquisition costs due to the rapid growth in subscribers.

Provision for doubtful accounts receivable for the year ended December 31, 1999 was $17.8 million, 27% lower than the $24.4 million reported in 1998. For the fourth quarter of 1999, the Company recorded a $2.7 million provision for doubtful accounts receivable compared to a provision of $6.3 million for the same period in 1998. This decrease was due in large part to improving conditions in the Russian economy.

Depreciation and amortization expense was $54.8 million for the year ended December 31, 1999, 30% higher than the $42.3 million in 1998. For the fourth quarter of 1999, depreciation and amortization expense was $13.7 million, an 11% increase compared to $12.3 million reported for the same period of 1998. The increase was largely due to the increased depreciable asset base resulting from the Company's continuing capital investments, primarily in its GSM-900/1800 network. Investments in 1999 amounted to $99.8 million (including $54.5 million for the purchase of equipment and intangible assets), 38% higher than the $72.5 million in 1998.

In 1999, the Company reported a $5.6 million income tax benefit, which consisted of a $6.9 million deferred income tax benefit and a $1.3 million income tax expense. As of December 31, 1998, current income tax expense was $16.6 million and deferred tax expense was $0.5 million, which equaled a $17.1 million expense.

Yesterday, at an extraordinary meeting of shareholders, VimpelCom's shareholders overwhelmingly approved an authorization of issuance of up to 7,000,000 shares of common stock (equivalent to 9,333,333 ADS) to support its growth strategy. As previously announced, these shares will be used by the Board based upon the timing of favorable market conditions and VimpelCom's growth needs.

VimpelCom is a leading wireless telecommunications service company in Russia, operating under the "Bee Line" brand name, one of the most recognized brand names in Russia. VimpelCom's GSM and D-AMPS license portfolio covers approximately 70% of Russia's population (100 million people), including the City of Moscow and the Moscow Region, which is the Company's primary market. VimpelCom was the first Russian company to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). VimpelCom's ADSs are listed on the NYSE under the symbol "VIP".

 

This press release contains "forward-looking statements," as the phrase is defined in Section 27A of the Securities Act and Section 21E of the Exchange Act. These statements relate to the Company's development and are based on Management's best assessment of the Company's strategic and financial position and of future market conditions and trends. These discussions involve risks and uncertainties. The actual outcome may differ materially from these statements as a result of unforeseen developments from competition, governmental regulations of the wireless telecommunications industry, general political uncertainties in Russia and general economic developments in Russia and other factors. As a result of such risks and uncertainties, there can be no assurance that the effects of competition or current or future changes in the political, economic and social environment or current or future regulation of the Russian telecommunications industry will not have a material adverse effect on the VimpelCom Group. Certain factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those discussed in any forward-looking statements include the risks described in the Company's Annual Report on Form 20-F for the year ended December 31, 1998 and other public filings made by the Company with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, which risk factors are incorporated herein by reference. VimpelCom disclaims any obligation to update developments of these risk factors or to announce publicly any revision to any of the forward-looking statements contained in this release, or to make corrections to reflect future events or developments.

 

For more information, please contact:
Valery Goldin
VimpelCom (Moscow)
7(095) 974-5888
vgoldin@vimpelcom.com

Glenn Wiener
Edelman Financial Worldwide
1 (212) 704 8174
glenn_wiener@edelman.com

Open Joint Stock Company “Vimpel-Communications"

Consolidated Condensed Statements of Operations

             
   

Three months ended

 

Year ended

   

December 31,

 

December 31,

   

1999

1998

 

1999

1998

   

(In thousands, except per share (ADS) amounts)

Operating revenues:

         
 

Service revenues and connection fees

US$52,526

US$71,732

 

US$207,009

US$344,793

 

Sales of handsets and accessories

13,409

4,290

 

30,990

30,372

 

Other revenues

171

84

 

638

792

Total operating revenues

66,106

76,106

 

238,637

375,957

 

Less revenue based taxes

2,932

4,030

 

12,232

14,959

Net operating revenues

63,174

72,076

 

226,405

360,998

             

Operating expenses:

         
 

Service costs

13,764

17,603

 

56,954

73,736

 

Cost of handsets and accessories sold

18,139

4,472

 

36,928

24,844

 

Cost of other revenues

67

17

 

242

411

 

Selling, general and administrative expenses

34,134

19,129

 

88,704

93,539

 

Depreciation and amortization

13,726

12,295

 

54,799

42,269

 

Provision for doubtful accounts

2,742

6,284

 

17,845

24,360

Total operating expenses

82,572

59,800

 

255,472

259,159

             

Operating (loss) income

(19,398)

12,276

 

(29,067)

101,839

             

Other income and expenses:

         
 

Other income

16

1,100

 

1,805

2,146

 

Gain (loss) on trading in securities

590

1,934

 

1,421

(26,309)

 

Interest expense

(3,890)

(4,364)

 

(16,074)

(14,382)

 

Net foreign exchange loss

(1,067)

(10,086)

 

(2,569)

(48,125)

Total other income and expenses

(4,351)

(11,416)

 

(15,417)

(86,670)

             

Income before income taxes and minority interest

(23,749)

860

 

(44,484)

15,169

             

Income tax expense (benefit)

3,350

(9,692)

 

(5,564)

17,101

Minority interest in net (losses) earnings

of subsidiaries

 

(808)

 

1,565

 

 

676

 

2,783

             

Net (loss)income

US$(26,291)

US$8,987

 

US$(39,596)

US$(4,715)

             

Net (loss) income per common share

US$(0.98)

US$0.47

 

US$(1.71)

US$(0.24)

             

Net (loss) income per ADS equivalent

US$(0.74)

US$0.35

 

US$(1.28)

US$(0.18)

             

Weighted average common shares outstanding (thousands)

26,825

19,280

 

23,181

19,280

             

EBITDA

US$(5,672)

US$24,571

 

US$25,732

US$144,108

         

Open Joint Stock Company “Vimpel-Communications"

Consolidated Condensed Balance Sheets

         
         
         
     

December 31,

December 31,

     

1999

1998

         
     

(In thousand US dollars)

Assets

       

Current assets:

   
 

Cash and cash equivalents

 

US$35,609

US$14,479

 

Short-term investments

503

2,167

 

Accounts receivable

24,356

34,354

 

Other current assets

46,321

21,377

Total current assets

106,789

72,377

         

Non-current assets

   
 

Property and equipment, net

369,053

357,788

 

Intangible assets, net

84,134

89,724

 

Other assets

30,119

16,178

Total non-current assets

483,306

463,690

         

Total assets

 

US$590,095

US$536,067

         

Liabilities and shareholders' equity

   

Current liabilities:

   
 

Accounts payable

US$33,744

US$36,573

 

Customer deposits

31,341

46,214

 

Bank loans

-

10,754

 

Equipment financing and other liabilitiescurrent portion

68,073

17,501

 

Accrued liabilities

12,413

7,594

Total current liabilities

145,571

118,636

         

Deferred income taxes

40,329

41,151

Equipment financing and other liabilities

93,265

164,075

         

Minority interest

9,942

9,269

         

Shareholders' equity

300,988

202,936

         

Total liabilities and shareholders' equity

US$590,095

US$536,067



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