Ericsson published its financial results for Q3 2019, reporting 3% percent growth in sales. Total sales were SEK 57.1 billion(b)., equivalent to AED 21.5 b. Sales adjusted for comparable units and currency increased by 3% driven by strong growth in North America and North East Asia.
For Q3 19, operating income was impacted by cost provisions of USD -1.2 b. (SEK -11.5 b.) corresponding to a margin of 11.4% excluding restructuring costs, the US investigation costs of USD -1.2 b. (SEK -11.5 b.) and the refund of social security costs of SEK 0.9 b.
Ericsson previously communicated that its third-quarter 2019 results will be impacted by a 12 billion Swedish krona provision. This is due to the investigations by U.S. authorities.
Net income suffered a SEK -6.9 b. loss, also negatively impacted by the investigation.
Free cash flow before M&A was SEK 5.5 b., showing a strong financial position.
Gross margin excluding restructuring charges was 37.8% (36.9%) with improvements in Managed Services, Digital Services and Networks. The gross margin in the previous quarter was 36.7% and 36.9% last year.
Strategic contracts in Networks, with initially low margins, taken to strengthen the market position, are expected to have a somewhat increased negative impact on gross margin short term without jeopardizing the 2020 target.
Ericsson has played a pivotal role in the advancement of 5G technology. Large 5G deployments in China are expected to commence in 2020. Ericsson has invested in R&D and supply chain capacity, aiming to increase market share. Based on historic experience margins are initially challenging but turn positive over the lifespan of a contract.
Commenting on the results, to Börje Ekholm, President and CEO of Ericsson said:
“We continue to see strong momentum in our business, based on the strategy to increase our investments for technology leadership, including 5G… Our focused strategy, introduced in 2017, is aimed at building a stronger Ericsson longer term. With clear focus on our operator customers the strategy stands on a foundation of increased investments in R&D for technology and cost leadership, and growing market footprint. Increased R&D efforts, which will continue, have resulted in a competitive portfolio driving improved gross margin.”
He added, “An important indicator for our execution of the strategy is the improvement in gross margin. The gross margin in the quarter ended at 37.8% compared with 36.9% last year and 36.7% last quarter. Within the 0.8 percentage point sequential decline in Networks gross margin, we have absorbed the margin impact and inventory provisions related to strategic contracts.”
In the report, Börje Ekholm believes their success is driven by the adopters of 5G. He also announced that 5G has taken off earlier than expected.
“5G is taking off faster than earlier anticipated and we see initial 5G buildout as a capacity enhancer in metropolitan areas. However, over time, new exciting innovations for 5G will come with industrial and IoT use cases, leveraging the speed, latency and security characteristics of 5G. This provides opportunities for our customers to capture new revenues as they provide additional benefits to consumers and businesses.”
“Our IoT business is growing almost twice as fast as the estimated market growth of 20-25% per year. We have more than 4,500 enterprises on our IoT platform and the number of connected devices on the platform has more than doubled year to date. To fully leverage our position and capture new recurring revenue streams we are increasing our investments in IoT within Emerging Business. With this investment, we do not expect to reach breakeven for the segment next year, and instead incur losses of SEK -1.5 to -2.0 b”