Swisscom’s financial position, net assets and results of operations are primarily influenced by macroeconomic factors, notably economic trends, interest rates, exchange rates and the capital markets.
The bulk of Swisscom’s revenue from telephony and broadband services comes from fixed monthly fees and is subject to low cyclical fluctuations in demand. Project business with corporate customers, on the other hand, is more sensitive to cyclical factors.
The general level of interest rates in Switzerland has historically been lower than in most other industrialised countries. In the reporting year, the level of and movements in interest rates were determined to a large extent by the monetary policy of the SNB and the European and US central banks. The SNB lifted the cap of CHF 1.20 against the euro on 15 January 2015 and at the same time introduced negative interest rates for sight deposits. As a result, the yields on ten-year Confederation bonds also fell into negative territory. At the end of 2016 they stood at minus 0.14%.
The level of interest rates has a direct impact on funding costs and also affects in the consolidated financial statement the valuation of various items in the balance sheet such as assets, long-term provisions and pension liabilities. Swisscom AGain took advantage of the ongoing period of negative interest rates in 2016 for various financing transactions. It issued three bonds with a total value of CHF 700 million with maturities of between 11 and 16 years, all at favourable terms of interest. In addition, a private placement for CHF 150 million that fell due was extended by 15 years. The proportion of variable interest-bearing financial liabilities stands at 21%. The interest expense on all financial liabilities averaged 1.9% in 2016 (prior year: 2.3%). In addition, Swisscom has in the past concluded interest rate swaps with long terms to maturity which are not designated for hedge accounting. Changes in market interest rates can result in high fluctuations in fair values recognised in income statement.
On 15 January 2015, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) announced it would no longer defend the minimum CHF/EUR exchange rate of 1.20. As a consequence, the Swiss franc appreciated substantially, particularly against the euro. At the end of 2016, the exchange rate of the Swiss franc to the euro was 1.07.
Swisscom mostly funds itself in Swiss francs, although the proportion of financial liabilities in EUR has gradually increased in the last three years, particularly as a result of bond issuance activity. This has led to a better diversification of funding sources. At the end of 2016, financial liabilities amounted to CHF 8.5 billion, of which 73% was in CHF, 25% in EUR and 2% in USD. Currency translations in respect of foreign Group companies, in particular Fastweb in Italy, affect the presentation of the net assets and results of operations in the consolidated financial statements. Cumulative currency translation adjustments in respect of foreign subsidiaries recognised in consolidated equity before deduction of tax effects amounted to CHF 2.2 billion in 2016, which was unchanged from the previous year. A portion of the liabilities in EUR has been designated as a currency hedge of the net investment in Fastweb.
In 2016, international equity markets fell and the Swiss Market Index (SMI) suffered a decline of 6.8%. Swisscom holds surplus liquidity in the form of cash and cash equivalents and short-term money-market investments. There are only insignificant direct financial investments in equities or other non-current financial assets. comPlan, Swisscom’s legally independent pension fund in Switzerland,has total assets of around CHF 10 billion invested in equities, bonds and other investment categories. These assets are thus exposed to capital market risks. This indirectly affects the financial position presented in Swisscom’s consolidated financial statements.See
Legal and regulatory environment
Swisscom’s legal framework
Swisscom is a public limited company with special status under Swiss law. It is organised in compliance with the Telecommunications Enterprise Act (TEA), company law and the company’s Articles of Incorporation. Its business operations are governed primarily by telecommunications and broadcasting legislation. Swisscom is also subject to rules governing business as a whole, namely competition law. As a stock-exchange-listed company, Swisscom is also required to comply with capital market legislation as well as with the Federal Ordinance against Excessive Compensation in Listed Stock Companies.
Telecommunications Enterprise Act (TEA) and relationship with the Swiss Confederation
- Increase enterprise value over the long term. Deliver a total shareholder return (dividend payout and share performance) on a par with that of comparable telecoms companies in Europe.
- Pursue a dividend policy that follows the principle of consistency and guarantees an attractive dividend yield commensurate with other stock-exchange-listed companies in Switzerland. It should reflect the requirements of a sustainable investment policy, a risk-appropriate, industry-standard equity ratio and easy access to capital markets at all times.
- Aim for a maximum net debt of 2.1 times EBITDA (operating income before depreciation and amortisation). This ratio may be temporarily exceeded.
The Federal Council also expects Swisscom to enter into partnerships (participations, alliances, foundation of companies and other forms of cooperation) only if they promote a sustained increase in enterprise value, can be managed well and take sufficient account of potential risks. No interests may be held in foreign telecoms companies with a universal service obligation. Other interests in foreign companies may be acquired if they support the core business in Switzerland or are otherwise a strategic fit.See
Telecommunications Act (TCA)
The Telecommunications Act governs the conditions under which market-dominant providers of telecoms services are required to make their network available to other providers. The Act covers a comprehensive catalogue of access types and in the connection area is restricted to copper cables. The access services cited in the Act must be offered at regulated conditions and above all at cost-based prices. In addition to network access, the Act governs universal service provision, laying down the framework for the reliable and affordable provision of basic telecommunications to all sections of the population in all regions of the country. The scope of services as well as the related quality and pricing requirements are determined periodically by the Federal Council. Among other things, universal service provision covers guaranteed nationwide access to a broadband connection with a download speed of at least 2 Mbps. The universal service provision licence granted to Swisscom in 2007 by the Federal Communications Commission (ComCom) runs until 2017. To date, Swisscom has fulfilled the requirements of the universal service provision licence according to the quality criteria laid down by the TCA without complaints and without financial compensation. The Telecommunications Act also governs conditions for use of the radio frequency spectrum.See
Competition law / Federal Cartel Act
The Cartel Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements between companies, provides for sanctions in the event of abuse by companies of their market-dominant position, and prohibits business combinations that result in the elimination of competition. Discrimination of trading partners with respect to prices or other business conditions is considered to be an example of abuse.See
Regulatory developments in Switzerland in 2016
Ongoing proceedings relating to telecommunications and competition legislation
In recent years, a number of proceedings relating to telecommunications and competition law have been initiated against Swisscom. The Competition Commission (Weko) sanctioned Swisscom for abuse of a market-dominant position in proceedings regarding the case of ADSL services in the period up to the end of 2007. Swisscom challenged the ruling in the Federal Administrative Court. In October 2015, the Federal Administrative Court confirmed in principle the Competition Commission’s decision and imposed a penalty of CHF 186 million against Swisscom. Swisscom has filed a complaint against the ruling with the Federal Supreme Court. In other proceedings related to live sport broadcasts on pay television, the Competition Commission imposed a CHF 72 million sanction against Swisscom for unlawful behaviour in the marketing of sports content. Swisscom has challenged the ruling in the Federal Administrative Court. In a third set of proceedings, Weko imposed a sanction of CHF 8 million against Swisscom in connection with allegations of unlawful terms and conditions related to the broadband connections of post office locations. Swisscom has also filed a complaint against this Weko ruling with the Federal Administrative Court. Further information on ongoing proceedings is contained in Notes 28 and 29 to the consolidated financial statements.
Basic service provision from 2018 to 2023
On 2 December 2016, the Federal Council approved an amendment to the Ordinance on Telecommunication Services (OST) which defines the content of basic service provision for telecommunications services as of 2018. From that year on, traditional analogue and digital connections will be replaced by a multi-functional connection. The minimum data transfer rate for Internet access will also be increased to 3000/300 kbps and services for people with disabilities will be expanded. The Federal Communications Commission (ComCom) has granted Swisscom a basic service licence for 2018 to 2023.
Revision of the Telecommunications Act (TCA)
The Federal Council conducted a consultation on the revision of the Telecommunications Act (TCA). Based on the results of the consultation, the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (UVEK) was commissioned to draw up a dispatch on the amendment of the TCA by September 2017. The intent of the bill is to strengthen consumer protection and the protection of minors, in part by combating unsolicited advertising calls and child pornography, but also by taking steps to control roaming prices. Concrete proposals will also be drawn up with regard to transparency requirements pertaining to net neutrality and on ways for the Federal Council to regulate access to new technologies in the event of a market dominant position. Other proposals will address a reduction in the administrative burden of telecommunication service providers, greater flexibility in the use of frequencies and improved access to building installations and directory data. Finally, standards are also required to govern Internet domain names, emergency calls, and communication in exceptional circumstances.
Regulatory differences between Switzerland and the European Union
In the European Union (EU), the regulatory authorities have extensive powers to analyse markets and impose obligations on market-dominant companies relating to non-discrimination, transparency and forms of access (“ex-ante regulation”). The Swiss government has rejected such all-encompassing regulation, as the market conditions in Switzerland are different to those in most EU member states. The Swiss market is characterised by virtually nationwide competition between Swisscom and the cable network operators. Moreover, municipal and regional electrical utilities have also entered the market. The market situation prevailing in Switzerland therefore necessitates a different form of regulation than in countries such as France and Italy, where there is largely a single network provider and no platform competition has evolved.
Legal and regulatory environment in Italy
Fastweb’s legal framework
As a member of the European Union, Italy is required to bring national legislation into line with the European legislative framework. The Italian telecoms regulator, Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (AGCOM), has the task of imposing regulatory requirements on companies, based on an analysis of the markets defined by the European Commission. Drafts of such requirements and corresponding regulations must be submitted to the European Commission and the regulatory authorities of the other member states, who have the right to comment on or veto the draft. The business operations of Swisscom’s Italian subsidiary Fastweb are therefore heavily influenced by Italian and European telecommunications legislation and its application.
Regulatory developments in Italy in 2016
In 2016, AGCOM concluded its market analysis on fixed network and mobile network termination fees and set the maximum fee for termination of mobile services for the period from 2015 to 2017 and the fee for fixed network services for 2017 to 2019. The obligation regarding cost orientation and equal treatment was retained in both cases; however, the operators were given the opportunity to assert varying termination fees for calls made from outside EU member states based on the principle of reciprocity. Full-service MVNOs will in future also be subject to regulated termination fees.
Swisscom stakeholder groups
Dialogue takes place with stakeholder groups depending on how close the relationship is and on the individual stakeholder group’s interests. However, the size of the respective stakeholder group is the decisive factor in the kind of dialogue that is possible.
Quarterly surveys are conducted among business customers, which include questions on sustainability. Swisscom also maintains regular contact with consumer organisations in all language regions of Switzerland and runs blogs as well as online discussion platforms. The overall findings show that customers expect good service, attractive pricing, market transparency, responsible marketing, comprehensive network coverage, network stability, low-radiation communication technologies and sustainable products and services.
Shareholders and external investors
Besides the Annual General Meeting, Swisscom regularly fosters dialogue with shareholders at analysts’ presentations, road shows and in regular teleconferences. It engages in a regular exchange of information with representatives of the Swiss Confederation (Confederation) as majority shareholder. Over the years, it has also built up contacts with numerous external investors and rating agencies. Shareholders and external investors expect above all stability, profitability and innovation from Swisscom.
Authorities / residents
Network expansion gives rise to tension because of the different interests at stake. Swisscom has been engaged in dialogue with municipal authorities and residents on network planning for many years. In the case of construction projects, it gives the parties affected an opportunity to suggest suitable alternative locations. Swisscom also liaises regularly with public authorities in other areas and on other occasions: for example, it invites the ICT heads of the cantonal education authorities to an annual two-day seminar on the subject of “Internet for Schools”. As a stakeholder group, public authorities expect Swisscom to act decisively in the way it recognises its responsibility towards the public at large and towards young people in particular.
Swisscom is required to deal with political and regulatory issues, maintaining a regular dialogue with authorities, parties and associations. Swisscom makes constructive contributions to relevant legislative processes.
Swisscom’s procurement organisations regularly deal with suppliers and manage supplier relationships, analysing the results of evaluations, formulating target agreements and reviewing performance. Once a year, they invite their main suppliers to a Key Supplier Day. The focus of the event is on risk mitigation and responsibility in the supply chain. In the interests of maintaining dialogue with global suppliers, Swisscom also relies on international cooperation within the relevant sectors.
Swisscom maintains close contact with the media, seven days a week. Its relationship with the media is based on professional journalistic principles. In addition to the Media Office, representatives of management maintain a regular dialogue with journalists and make themselves available for interviews and more in-depth background discussions.
Employees and employee representation
Helping to shape Swisscom’s future is one of the most important tasks of the Employee Representation Committee. Twice a year, Swisscom organises a round-table meeting with the employee representatives. Employee concerns mainly relate to social partnership, training and development, diversity, and health and safety at work. Swisscom engages in dialogue with teams from all organisational units on sustainability issues, under the motto “Hello Future”. Through this dialogue, Swisscom keeps its employees up to date on its work in the area of sustainability and encourages them to implement sustainability measures in their daily work and life.
Partners and NGOs
Swisscom believes in the importance of sharing insights and information with partners within the framework of projects; for example, with WWF, myclimate, the Swiss Child Protection Foundation, Brot für alle/Fastenopfer and organisations that address the specific needs of affected groups. Active partnerships and Swisscom’s social and ecological commitment are especially relevant for the partners and NGO stakeholder group. The Swisscom website provides an overview of the respective stakeholder groups.
Swisscom maintains contact with the public through trade fairs and events, over social media, as well as directly via the Swisscom website, through surveys of the public and, as in 2016, through the Energy Challenge. The Energy Challenge is a campaign launched by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy in which Swisscom took part as the main partner.
Market trends in telecoms and IT services
Swiss telecommunications market
The Swiss telecommunications market is highly developed by international standards. It is characterised by innovation and a wide range of voice and data products and services. Total revenue generated by the telecoms market in Switzerland is estimated at around CHF 12 billion. The constant advancement of digitisation and connectivity is a key trend. In addition to the established national telecommunications companies, more and more new global competitors are entering the Swiss telecoms market, offering both free and paying Internet-based services around the world, including telephony, SMS messaging and streaming services. Cloud solutions are also playing an ever more important role, with storage capacity, processing power, software and services all relocating to an increasing degree to the Internet. These developments are causing a rapid growth in demand for high bandwidths that enable fast, high-quality access to data and applications. There is an increasing focus being placed on the security and uninterrupted availability of data and services, with modern, highly effective network infrastructures forming the basis for this. Swisscom is therefore setting up the networks of the future for both fixed-line and mobile communications. Swisscom’s bundled offerings combine different technologies such as fixed-line broadband access with Internet, TV and telephony, plus the option of a mobile line. The Swiss telecoms market can thus be broken down into the following submarkets of relevance to Swisscom: mobile, broadband, TV and fixed-line telephony.
Mobile communications market
In order to provide its customers with the best communications experiences, Swisscom is constantly expanding its mobile network using the latest technology. There continues to be dynamic competition on the Swiss mobile communications market, as shown by the adjustments made to the portfolio of offerings by market participants throughout 2016. Swisscom has launched new mobile subscriptions, such as Natel infinity 2.0, which provide customers with a larger scope of service. These subscriptions allow Swisscom customers to make unlimited phone calls and send unlimited SMS messages to all Swiss networks, as well as unlimited Internet surfing at flat rates. The individual offerings mainly differ in terms of mobile data speeds and the number of inclusive days of usage and data volume when abroad. It is now also possible to take out a subscription without purchasing a handset as well as pay for a new handset in interest-free instalments. Swisscom offers occasional users of the mobile network prepaid services with no monthly subscription fee.
Swisscom’s market share in 2016 was 60% (postpaid: 63%; prepaid: 55%), which corresponds to a one percentage point increase on the previous year. This is mainly attributable to the fact that the number of prepaid Swisscom customers has declined less than those of other market participants. As in previous years, prices for mobile services continued to be squeezed by competition in 2016.
Switzerland has almost 100% coverage of fixed broadband networks. Alongside the fixed-line networks of telecoms companies, there are also cable networks of cable network operators. Moreover, new market players such as utilities operating in particular cities and municipalities are building and operating fibre-optic networks on their own initiative at a regional level. In order to meet the rising demands on the networks, Swisscom is investing heavily in its existing fixed network to create a high-performance ultrafast broadband network based on the latest fibre-optic and IP technology. The fixed broadband connection has therefore increasingly developed into the key access point for customers. It is the basis for a wide-ranging product offering from both national and global competitors. Alongside individual products, Swisscom offers various bundled products tailored to customer needs in the fixed-line area with a choice of TV and/or fixed telephony on top of the broadband connection.
The most widespread access technologies for fixed broadband connections in Switzerland are infrastructures based on the networks of telecoms providers and cable network operators. At the end of 2016, the number of retail broadband access lines in Switzerland totalled around 3.7 million, corresponding to around 85% of households and businesses.
The number of broadband access lines increased by around 3% in 2016 (prior year: 4%). In contrast to the previous year, growth in broadband access lines provided by cable network operators lagged behind that of the broadband access lines of telecom service providers. Telecom service providers accounted for more than three-quarters of new broadband access lines in 2016, corresponding to a market share of all broadband lines of 67% (prior year: 66%). Of these, 54% (prior year: 54%) were for Swisscom end customers and 13% (prior year: 12%) for Swisscom wholesale offerings and fully unbundled lines.
The Swiss TV market features a wide range of offerings from national market participants, and is now also playing host to offerings from other international companies. These international companies offer TV and streaming services that can be used over an existing broadband connection, regardless of the Internet provider. 2016 saw the level of competition increase, particularly in terms of TV content. This is highlighted by the reallocation of the broadcasting rights for domestic and international football and ice hockey. On the one hand, pay-TV channel Teleclub – a Swisscom subsidiary – has been awarded the broadcasting rights, as in previous years, to the Swiss football leagues from the 2017/2018 season onwards. On the other hand, national cable providers have acquired the broadcasting rights to the Swiss ice hockey leagues and will take over responsibility for these from Teleclub from the 2017/2018 season onwards.
Just under 90% of TV connections are provided via cable or broadband networks. Swisscom has steadily increased the market share of its own digital TV offering, Swisscom TV, over the past few years. Swisscom became market leader at the end of 2015 and further expanded on this position throughout 2016, achieving a market share of 32% at the end of the year (prior year: 29%).
Fixed-line telephony market
Fixed-line telephony is mainly based on lines running over the fixed networks of the telecom service providers and the cable networks. The number of Swisscom fixed lines is steadily declining. This trend continued in 2016, with the number of Swisscom fixed-line connections falling by around 7% to 2.3 million. The main reason for the decline was the substitution of mobile phones for fixed-line connections.
IT services market in Switzerland
In 2016, the IT services market generated a revenue volume of CHF 8.6 billion. Market volume is expected to total CHF 9.3 billion by 2019. Swisscom expects the strongest growth in business process outsourcing (BPO) and in application-based and infrastructure project-based services, most notably in cloud and security services. This growth is a result of the increasing number of business-driven ICT projects. Customers usually expect services customised to their individual sector and business processes with related consultancy.
The shifts in the market and IT innovations are creating new opportunities for Swisscom. As one of the few providers of integrated digitisation solutions, Swisscom helps companies to improve customer experiences, simplify and automate processes and integrate existing solutions. Swisscom also co-creates new IT services with its customers. As a result, Swisscom is seen as a driver of digitisation in the Swiss economy. With a market share of around 9%, it remains one of the leading providers of IT services on the Swiss market.
Italian broadband market
Italy’s fixed broadband market is Europe’s fourth largest, with a revenue volume of around EUR 13 billion. In contrast to most other European countries, in Italy there are no significant cable network operators who offer broadband services. Around 55% of households and businesses in Italy have access to fixed-line broadband services; the penetration of broadband is thus well below the European average. Nevertheless, acceptance is speeding up, driven mainly by the use of new fibre-optic networks and by the increasing use of online services, such as streaming and gaming. The Italian market continues to be dominated by bundled products which combine voice and broadband services. Convergence offerings for the fixed network and mobile communications are also becoming increasingly popular. Due to the intensely competitive environment, the market is under considerable pricing pressure. Ultrafast broadband services have become more popular and the coverage now extends to over half of the country. One of the market leaders for fibre-optic/VDSL offerings is Fastweb. Enel, the largest electricity producer and supplier in Italy, has founded a new company – Enel Open Fiber – with the aim of providing access to a fibre-optic network in selected Italian cities and using its capacity as operator to sell this wholesale to telecommunications companies. The government issued a call for tender in 2016 for several contracts relating to the installation of new public fibre-optic networks with the aim of providing coverage by 2020 to those areas that do not currently have Internet access.
Fastweb is one of the leading providers in Italy with a market share of 16%. A permanent nationwide presence is becoming increasingly important for service providers given the growing complexity of products and services. The expansion of Italy’s broadband network is continuing at full speed: Fastweb and Telecom Italia intend to cooperate on the rollout of Fibre to the Home (FTTH). The aim is for 13 million or half of homes and businesses in Italy to be connected to the ultrafast broadband network by 2020. Fastweb has also decided to expand its own sales network, improve the efficiency of its dealer structure and step up investment in its own sales outlets in major Italian cities.