Amman, Jordan- In an interview with Petra News Agency, Orange Jordan's Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial and Strategy Officer, Raslan Deiranieh asserted that:
- Orange aligned its operational performance and profitability with Coronavirus crisis requirements
- We fulfilled our financial obligations to the state treasury before their due date.
· The company's initiatives amounted to JOD 1.3 million during the coronavirus crisis, in support to back the government's priorities.
· The purpose of reducing dividends is to achieve a balance between the financial needs of the company and protecting shareholders' profits.
The coronavirus outbreak posed massive challenges on communities that required coping with several changes in our daily lives. The increasing use of digital technologies to perform everyday tasks would not have been possible without the Kingdom's solid telecom infrastructure, said Deiranieh, noting that Orange Jordan played a vital role in supporting the government's efforts to combat COVID-19.
Deiranieh added that the information and communication technology sector (ICT), with the support of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship and the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC), stood out during the crisis by enabling public and private institutions to continue their operations amid strict precautionary measures imposed in the Kingdom since March.
The unprecedented circumstances have affected the company in terms of finance, as most sectors expect a decline in financial performance due to the repercussions of the lockdown imposed, he said, pointing out that many countries around the world are dealing with a similar situation.
Below is the full interview:
Petra: Since the beginning of the crisis, the government faced the challenge of securing funds needed to fight this pandemic and its economic consequences, what in the role of the private sector in supporting the state?
Deiranieh: As a national company, we took many measures, in line with the official directives to alleviate the economic difficulties in the wake of this global pandemic, to support the government by all possible means.
The company paid more than JOD 17 million to the state treasury in taxes and financial benefits before their due date. This is a crucial step that companies can take to help boost the national economy and reduce the financial burdens on the state's budget amid the decline in public revenue as a result of the crisis. I call on all companies that are financially able to pay taxes to the government as soon as possible, as it is a national and moral obligation. Companies, public and private institutions, individuals are all in this together.
The company provided 1.3 million dinars in solidarity with the segments most affected by the crisis, reflecting our social and national responsibility. JOD 1 million was granted to the Himmet Watan national fund, JOD 20,000 to the "Yawmiyyithum Alaina" initiative to support daily wage workers and their families.
COVID-19 is a health emergency which requires mobilizing medical and healthcare efforts to overcome any potential challenges as a result of the virus spreading. We supported the Ministry of Health with more than JOD 70,000, JOD 35,000 were donated directly and the rest by matching up the donations of Orange Money e-wallet users.
The company also donated JOD 95,000 in cash and medical equipment, in cooperation with the Orange Foundation, the Group's philanthropic activities and social responsibility arm, to the Ministry of Health.
We granted nurses working in isolation hospitals mobile lines worth JOD 130,000.
Petra: In terms of the company's financial performance, you have recommended reducing the dividends paid to shareholders. What are the key factors behind this approach? Have future plans been set in light of the current situation?
Deiranieh: The financial repercussions of this pandemic and the measures imposed to prevent the outbreak have had direct effects on the performance of all sectors, in varying degrees.
ICT companies operate within the national economy. We have adopted a proactive approach in dealing with this pandemic, by introducing a set of measures after carefully reassessing our priorities and requirements during this time.
The first step was the board of directors' recommendation to the general assembly, which will hold its meeting on the 23rd of July, to propose distributing 70% of the net profit for the year 2019 to shareholders, unlike previous years when full profits were distributed.
The executive management of the company believes that reducing the distribution of profits will create a balance between the financial needs of the company in these unprecedented circumstances and the earnings of its shareholders, thus reinforcing its policy of maintaining reserve liquidity in anticipation of any future developments. An additional step will encompass our efforts to reduce operating expenses to avoid any impacts on our high performance.
The plans to enhance network capacity and provide high-quality services in accordance with international standards are at the core of our work. Such commitment has always won us the confidence of customers and enabled us to meet their needs and serve the local community. We are counting on our shareholders' understanding of the active role that Orange Jordan plays in the kingdom's economic and social development.
Petra: How did the company deal with the crisis internally; did it form an internal crisis cell for this purpose?
Deiranieh: Our employees are our top priority and most valuable asset. We have taken measures to ensure employees' safety and mobilized internal departments to manage the crisis early in February, even before the Kingdom recorded any confirmed cases. Our internal crisis cell operates, in cooperation with the National Center for Security and Crisis Management, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, TRC.
We suspended business travel at the beginning of March and equipped our employees with the tools necessary to adapt to these exceptional circumstances.
Awareness is key in fighting this pandemic. Orange Jordan communicated instructions and protective steps to protect the health of everyone inside and outside the company.
Orange services gained even more importance due to the nationwide lockdown. The government decided that companies should work from home, not on premises. In line with Orange emergency and business continuity plans, the company took preemptive steps by providing employees, at the beginning of March, with all the necessary resources, including VPN connection, work systems ensuring operational efficiency and continuity, and secured laptops and smartphone devices.
Employees who interact with customers received virtual desktops and data, to continue responding to inquiries from home in an efficient and timely manner.
Due to the expected rise in internet use, we prepared site support teams, who carried out amazing work during the crisis.
The company follows strict sterilization procedures, among other protective measures, in buildings and shops across the Kingdom, to ensure the safety of both employees and customers.
Petra: Have supply and service chains been curtailed or dispensed with?
Deiranieh: Within the framework of our crisis management, the procedures and measures taken to reduce negative impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, the company has been keen to continue supply operations, to achieve two main objectives, the first is to ensure business continuity with high capacity and the best quality, and the second is to alleviate part of the challenges that supplier companies may face.
The crisis management in the company assessed the need for internal and supplier services and kept all agreements with suppliers in place, despite the crisis. Our aim was to put forward strong joint action to undermine grave economic repercussions.
Many suppliers were unable to deliver services during the lockdown. Orange reviewed the status of suppliers, especially those going through economic instability, and covered the salaries of these companies.
Petra: How has the company performed in the periods of home quarantine?
Deiranieh: Our services are essential to connecting people to everything that matters to them. During the home quarantine, we encouraged citizens to adhere to the precautionary measures and use digital platforms and services instead of leaving their homes. Within the company's crisis management policy, we have reviewed mechanisms and channels for customer care and rearranged them to ensure the availability of our services through digital applications.
I would like to point out that the company increased its operational capacity to meet the increasing demand for internet services, for both individuals and businesses, by providing free internet capacities to customers and increasing internet capacities in international portals, which meant huge additional costs incurred by the company.
During this period, some of our services witnessed a massive increase in demand. Orange Money e-wallet, for instance, had a role in facilitating the daily life of Jordanians, especially as an available alternative to any smartphone user, regardless of the network.
The e-wallet enabled users to carry out financial transactions safely and easily, including charging lines, paying bills, shopping, cash withdrawal and deposit, receiving or sending money, in addition to receiving social security payments and aids from the National Aid Fund. Orange Money had an impact on the arrival of funds to people not covered in banking services.
The company's network has proven resilience and readiness to deal with the huge increase in usage during the curfew period, as individuals and businesses relied on the internet, especially for education and health. The daily data traffic on our fiber, ADSL and other networks increased by 40-70%.