(2nd LD) SK Telecom Q4 net profit down 16.2 pct due to base effect

SEOUL, SK Telecom Co., South Korea's leading mobile carrier, said Monday its fourth-quarter net profit decreased 16.2 percent from a year earlier due to a base effect of operating costs. The net profit came to 187.4 billion won (US$141.7 million) for the October-December period, compared with 223.7 billion won a year ago. Operating profit rose 16.7 percent on-year to 297.1 billion won, and revenue increased 3 percent to 4.52 trillion won. For the whole of 2023, the telecom giant reported a net profit of 1.15 trillion won, up 20.9 percent from a year earlier. The annual operating profit reached 1.75 trillion won, compared with 1.61 trillion won from the previous year. Annual sales rose 1.8 percent to 17.6 trillion won. The company said its fourth-quarter net profit decreased from a year earlier due to a base effect from a concentration of business spendings in the period, but it posted solid yearly earnings on the growth of its artificial intelligence (AI) business. In the AI infrastructure division, SK Telecom saw its data center sales jump 30 percent on-year last year. The company said it plans to focus on building a new AI data center this year and work to break into the global market amid growing demand for next-generation data centers in the AI era. SK Telecom also plans to expand its global telco-specific large language model business. Sales in the enterprise division, which encompasses business-to-business items, gained 8.1 percent on-year to 1.63 trillion won last year. In particular, the business-to-business cloud service saw sales advance more than 36.6 percent to 146 billion won in 2023. The company said it will work to gain a foothold in the global urban air mobility and AI healthcare markets in cooperation with U.S. companies this year. SK Telecom said it will strengthen its AI service businesses, applying AI technology on its metaverse platform, ifland, and upgrading its conversational AI app, A. For the mainstay telecom unit, SK Telecom's chief financial officer Kim Yang-sup said in a c onference call that the growth rate of fifth generation (5G) network subscribers and sales in the wireless business have been slowing down. In the fourth quarter, SK Telecom had 15.7 million 5G subscriptions, compared with 15.1 million in the previous quarter. SK Telecom set its annual sales target at 17.9 trillion won, up 2 percent on-year, for 2024. The mobile carrier also said it has finalized a 300 billion-won share buyback program and plans to hand out a cash dividend of 1,050 won per share to its fourth-quarter stockholders. Source: Yonhap News Agency