According to Maybank Investment Bank Research, both Digi and Maxis reported decent results for 2Q21, underpinned by healthy postpaid subscriber momentum on the back of strong take-up for their respective Prihatin plans/bundles.
"We expect Celcom (through Axiata) to follow suit. Axiata is tentatively scheduled to report 2Q21 earnings on 27 Aug," it said.
The government's Prihatin subsidy programme, which was launched to assist the B40 segment bridge the digital divide, has helped to shore up mobile telcos' subscriber count.
The programme allows eligible subscribers to register with their telco of choice to claim either RM180 of bill rebates over 12 months or a one-off RM300 device rebate.
The government will subsidise RM2bil of the total RM3.5bil value of the programme while the telcos will bear the remaining value, mostly in the form of incremental free data.
"We prefer Axiata (AXIATA MK, BUY, CP: MYR3.71, TP: MYR4.40) among the mobile telcos.
"Our overall sector pick is TM (T MK, BUY, CP: MYR5.95, TP: MYR7.40)," said Maybank IB, which has a "neutral" call on the telco sector.
However, with the movement restrictions starting in May 2021, bad debt issues may only manifest in 3Q21.
"With Covid-19 cases still high and movement restrictions still in place today, we believe it is premature to dismiss the possibility of bad debt provisions flaring up in 3Q21," it said.