"Whilst the same quarter last year does not make a realistic base for year-on-year (y-o-y) performance comparison owing to the watershed period that saw the region grapple with the brunt of Covid-19 shockwaves, the group stood steady in delivering its year-to-date performance, demonstrating agility and learning in adjusting to pandemic shifts.
"All OpCos excluding Ncell are ahead of pre-pandemic levels in 2020," it said in a statement issued on Friday.
The board of directors announced an interim dividend of four sen per share, which represents a payout of RM367mil.
Year-to-date, the group's revenue rose 5.3% y-o-y to RM12.5bil while earnings before interest, tax and depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) grew 8.2% to RM5.5bil on the back of contributions from Celcom and Axiata Digital.
Over the six months period, profit after tax and minority interest (Patami) rose 31.8% y-o-y to RM353mil while profit after tax was 8.6% higher at RM602mil.
This was offset by lower one-off gains compared to last year and accelerated depreciation of 3G assets at Celcom and Robi.
"An evaluation of underlying performance showed healthy YTD revenue growth excluding device at RM12.1bil (+ 7.2%) supported by contributions from all OpCos except XL (dragged by intense competitive pressures) and Ncell (lower International Long-Distance revenue)," it said.
The improvement in Ebitda to RM5.5bil came with a margin expansion of 1.2 percentage points, due mainly to contributions frmo Celcom, Axiata Digital, Dialog and edotco.
The group successfully achieved cost excellence with year-to-date operating expenditure savings of RM225mil, it added.
Operating free cash flow rose 26.4% to RM1.6bil year-to-date, driven mainly by higher Ebitda and lower net finance cost.
"In addition, with a strong cash balance of RM7bil and gross debt/ Ebitda trending down to 2.48x (from 2.64x in 2Q20), the group’s
balance sheet could be deployed to capitalise on potential growth opportunities in Home, Enterprise and digital business segments," said Axiata.
Axiata chairman Tan Sri Ghazzali Sheikh Abdul Khalid said in its ongoing efforts to support national disaster recovery, the group plans to contribute RM5mil in medical equipment to Malaysian medical frontliners via the Greater Klang Valley Special Task Force under the Health Ministry.
"Moving forward, the group remains committed to its role in supporting governments and societies across its markets, and we will continue to identify avenues for support towards stabilisation from the crisis," he said.
Axiata president and group CEO Datuk Izzadin Idris added that the recovery period has put the group in more favourable territory as it executes measures to add capacity and modernise networks as well as support digital inclusion and transformation across the region.
"The first half of this year has been about disciplined execution of Axiata 5.0, and these achievements are just the beginning.
"Our healthy balance sheet, coupled with a RM7bil cash position and gross debt to EBITDA of 2.48x provide the opportunity to move forward with confidence in securing new growth opportunities consistent with our goal of becoming a high dividend company and The Next Generation Digital Champion by 2024," he said.