After emerging as a reinforced operation in the wake of back-to-back hurricanes in 2017, Liberty Puerto Rico has become one of the “highlights” of its parent company, Liberty Latin America’s regional network.
Balan Nair, CEO of Liberty Latin America said after Hurricanes Irma and María, “the business was completely devastated, just like the population on the island.”
For investors, the question was: did Liberty Latin America really want to reinvest in Puerto Rico after that.
“There was no question that we were going to reinvest in this business and rebuild this business,” said Nair, flanked by Naji Khoury, CEO of Liberty Puerto Rico during a meeting with members of the local media.
The meeting followed the release of Liberty Latin America’s first quarter 2019 results, which showed a local operation pumped by continued subscriber and revenue growth.
The company added approximately 22,000 revenue generating units during the first quarter and reported positive growth across all product lines, led particularly by its broadband products.
Deciding to rebuild in Puerto Rico “has turned out to be the smartest thing we ever did from an investment standpoint,” Nair said.
Liberty Puerto Rico’s revenue increased by $37 million to $99 million, driven by the favorable comparison against the prior-year quarter resulting from the recovery following the 2017 hurricanes.
“In 2018 we made a commitment to our investors that by the end of the year, Puerto Rico would be reporting $14 million a month. We ended the year at $15 million a month,” Nair said. “For this year we didn’t out Puerto Rico specifically, but have a guidance for all of Liberty Latin America of $1.525 billion. We said we’re going to nail it and exceed it and Puerto Rico is part of that. We feel really good about where the numbers are.”
On a sequential basis, compared to the fourth quarter of 2018, revenue increased by 5 percent or $5 million, according to the financial results.
“While 2018 was about recovery, 2019 is about moving forward. The work we put into upgrading and improving our network is paying off, with growing subscriber numbers and recognitions such as the Ookla’s Speedtest Award, which we received for a second year in a row. We are very proud of this achievement,” said Khoury.
“We are concentrating on expanding our coverage on the island and continue upgrading our network so we can continue offering the most advanced technology and entertainment products,” Khoury said.
Liberty Business, Liberty Puerto Rico’s business division, recently launched a 180Mbps Internet, video and telephony bundle for small and medium-sized businesses. In addition, the bundle incudes advanced services such as Cloud Backup and Wi-Fi hotspot services.
The latter includes an additional 80Mbps Internet connection to enable business owners to offer free Wi-Fi to their customers.
As for the company’s new expansion plans, Liberty Puerto Rico closed the first quarter of 2019 with more than 5,000 new homes passed and plans to continue expanding its footprint across the island.
In addition, Khoury emphasized that Liberty will continue to move its content strategy to an “on demand” one rather than a linear one.
“We will also keep on innovating and adopting new technologies to make our customers’ lives simpler and provide an amazing experience,” he said.
The company continued pushing this strategy this quarter by expanding the lineup of its Liberty Go application, which now carries 61 channels.
As far as competition goes, Nair said Liberty will be mindful of what will happen with the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, as well as Claro, which he described as a “good competitor.”