By AYISY YUSOF
“Bringing Malaysia up to speed,” shouts one of TIME dotCom Bhd’s advertisement billboard. Its latest business tagline “You get the rocket. We do the science” sounds like a geeky quote born out of Silicon Valley.
And if those slogans do not capture your imagination, the “rose” corporate colour will.
Many still remember TIME as part of the United Engineers-Renong conglomerate. The well oiled combine had a finger in every pie in corporate Malaysia — highways, construction, hotel, healthcare, telecommunication, oil and gas, banking, etc.
But, the East Asia Financial Crisis of 1997/98 brought the conglomerate to its demise. Towering debts at a time of rising interest rates hurt the “giant” like many firms in the affected countries.
Founded in 1996, TIME was part of the conglomerate. The company and its parent firm, Time Engineering Bhd was expanding fast. Much of the expansion was financed by loans.
Despite all the negative reports, TIME was actually leading the industry with the its fibre-optic infrastructure — a data network wired using fibre that offers 1,000 times more bandwidth compared to a traditional copper wire. Data can be delivered 100 times further compared to the old wire.
The corporate restructuring involving Renong-United Engineers-Time Engineering saw TIME fall into the lap of Khazanah Nasional Bhd in 2002.
But in the last 15 years, and after a change in leadership and more “youthful” team, the almost ruined firm had found its footing. TIME had “exorcised the demon” of its damaged past.
Today, TIME is one the most consistent risers in the telecommunication sector. Its services for fast fixed line, global networks and data centre solutions has reaped the benefits in the connected society which hungers for more data.
Finding the Right Partner
In October 2007, Khazanah inked an agreement with Global Transit International Sdn Bhd (GTI) and appointed GTI’s CEO, Afzal Abdul Rahim, as TIME dotCom CEO. The corporate exercise also saw Khazanah transferring its 30.04% stake in TIME to a special-purpose vehicle, Pulau Kapas Ventures Sdn Bhd (PKVSB). Khazanah at that time owned a 61.2% interest in PKVSB.
GTI holds the remaining equity of 38.8% in PKVSB as well as injected its wholly owned subsidiary, Global Transit Communications Sdn Bhd into PKVSB. The deal also provides the change for Afzal to increase his shareholding and become PKVSB’s major shareholder if he meets certain performance targets.
If anything, the chance to become a majority shareholder in PKVSB had been the motivation for Afzal.
Ten years later, TIME’s major share-holders are PKVSB, Khazanah and Retirement Fund Inc, with 30.6%, 11.3% and 9% interest respectively, according to Bloomberg.
TIME’s revenue has been rising. The company posted a revenue of RM81.8 million in the first-quarter of 2012 (1Q12). That figure rose to RM218.4 million for the first three months of 2017, or a threefold jump.
Revenue for 1Q17 rose 24.7% to RM218.4 million compared to RM175.2 million in the same period last year.
The share price of the fixed line owner had also risen to RM9.20 per share, valuing the firm at RM5.32 billion.
And now the 37-year-old Afzal, who is known as commander-in-chief at TIME instead of CEO, is taking the firm beyond Malaysia.
Afzal recently said that the reliability and quality of TIME’s 100% fibre-optic network remained the core priority to increase market share and product offerings.
“As always, we are focused on increasing its coverage footprint while further tapping into the potential of its TIME Fibre Home Broadband offerings,” he said.
Afzal had also assembled a very strong management team and that had been key to TIME’s business.
The company recently announced its expansion into the Asean region, acquiring a stake of up to 49% in Thailand’s Symphony Communication Public Co Ltd for RM280 million.
The acquisition, which is expected to be completed before year-end, said Afzal would “be an important milestone for us in realising its vision of a more connected Asean”.
Positive Vibes From the Market
TIME’s success has not gone unnoticed. From a share price of slightly below RM1 in April 2008, TIME now is trading at RM9.20, its highest level since 2001, according to the Financial Times data.
Such success had also given a boost to the firm. Research houses are positive about TIME’s future.
Hong Leong Investment Bank Bhd (HLIB) has maintained a ‘Buy’ call for TIME with a target price of RM10.28.
HLIB said: “Retail is gaining momentum on the back of reach expansion and undisputable high value products. Data centre is expanding resiliently as IT (information and technology) sourcing, cloud computing and virtualisation gain wide adoption,” it said.
The research house noted exponential global demand for high quality data bandwidth, LTE (long- term evolution) node liberalisation and co-location, cloud computing and virtualisation would drive higher demand for data centre.
TIME revenue contribution from its retail consumers in 2016 was very encouraging especially with the launch of the country’s fastest and most competitively priced fibre home broadband service at speeds of up to 500Mbps on March 23 last year.
The completion of its investment in SKR1M (Sistem Kable Rakyat 1Malaysia) — expected in mid 2017 — would further enhance connectivity between Peninsular and East Malaysia.
On June 30, 2016, the FASTER submarine cable system was completed, boosting Trans-Pacific capacity and connectivity. With its landing point in Japan, FASTER seamlessly connects many neighbouring cable systems to extend capacity to other Asian countries, as well as major hubs on the West Coast of the US.
In 2016, TIME became the first data centre in the Asia-Pacific region to partner with Network Infrastructure Inventory Inc to provide an all-in-one platform for IT Service Management, Operational Support Systems and Data Centre Infrastructure Management capabilities.
TIME’s story is like Cinderella, the fairy tale with a happy ending.