Navigating 2020 with collaborative resilience and seizing opportunities in 2021
When I shared my annual message at the beginning of last year, no one could have anticipated the massive global disruption brought on by Covid-19. 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most tumultuous periods in living memory and a game-changing year. Almost overnight, normal daily lives, markets, businesses and workplaces were forced to adapt and transform to cope with the changing reality.
As a group, we were vigilant on the rapidly evolving global health crisis and proactively activated our Business Continuity Plan to ensure smooth operations and the safety and well-being of our employees, customers and partners. The STT core essence of collaborative resilience was clearly visible in the way we worked through the unprecedented challenges as one global group, adapting and moving forward to weather the dark clouds together. We are humbled to be in a strong position to support our employees, customers and businesses during this time. We do not take this for granted.
‘Business as usual’ in the new reality of 2020
While the pandemic has upended many industries last year, it has set new trends and accelerated the adoption of digital technology and services. I am delighted that our portfolio companies were right at the forefront, helping and enabling governments, businesses, communities and individuals to continue to function, work and connect amid lockdowns and restrictions.
Despite the complicated operating environments, STT and our portfolio companies remained focused on executing our albeit moderated growth strategies, committing to sound businesses and projects, delighting and supporting customers, and building our capabilities to position ourselves competitively for new opportunities when economies recover.
Within our Communications portfolio, our companies pressed ahead with their business transformation to be next-generation providers. StarHub continued its pursuit of new and diversified growth avenues with the completion of its investment in Malaysia-based, IT solutions provider Strateq. Both StarHub and U Mobile have also made substantial headway in their 5G technology road maps. The successful multi-party cross-border video call trial over their standalone 5G network is a milestone for both companies and brings them closer to launching 5G standalone services in their respective markets.
Our Data Centres portfolio through ST Telemedia Global Data Centres (STT GDC) maintained its expansion momentum and reinforced its market leading position with customer wins and new data centres opening. STT GDC’s global platform expanded to more than 110 data centres in 2020, from around 90 facilities in 2019. Underscoring the growth in our data centre business, GDS, a STT GDC company in China, had successfully launched its second listing in Hong Kong in November 2020 to fund for its expansion and R&D efforts.
For our Infrastructure Technology portfolio, we continued to strengthen the capabilities and geographical presence of our cloud IT platform with a majority stake in cloud-native service provider CloudCover earlier in the year. The investment builds on the expertise and presence of our existing companies Cloud Comrade and 2nd Watch, in which we have also increased our shareholding last year. Newly-established Quantum Security has launched an impactful lifecycle platform that takes a fresh approach to the complex cybersecurity landscape.
While activity levels have moderated over 2020, we have taken the opportunity to pause, reflect and recalibrate the strategic plans for all three business verticals.
Standing in solidarity with our community
The profound human consequences caused by Covid-19 are immeasurable. Beyond our ongoing community initiatives including in education and internships, STT and our portfolio companies have stood in solidarity with people impacted by the pandemic, especially the most vulnerable, and stepped up our community support efforts.
In Singapore, three charitable funds with an approximate combined total of over S$3.6 million were separately launched by STT, STT GDC and StarHub. The funds were raised from the respective companies’ board of directors, employees and company matching.
StarHub halted their 20th anniversary celebrations and instead channeled the budget to sponsor mobile broadband connectivity for disadvantaged students on their home-based learning during Singapore’s circuit breaker period. In Malaysia, U Mobile contributed RM1 million to the country’s Health Ministry and donated mobile handsets with unlimited data and calls to medical frontliners in two medical facilities.
Our portfolio companies, such as StarHub, U Mobile and GDS, have also gone the extra mile in customer service by providing extraordinary support services and timely relief packages to help customers tide over the trying period.
Opportunities in 2021
Covid-19 has permanently accelerated digital and cloud adoption in business and society globally. This scenario presents exciting new business opportunities for STT and our portfolio companies. We have a robust and dynamic roadmap where the expanding capabilities and presence of our digital infrastructure, cloud service and communications businesses will put us in good stead to capture the digital transformation growth wave.
As we seek business growth, we are also cognizant of our responsibility to create sustainable long-term stakeholder value which includes being good stewards of our environment. Notwithstanding the running of our businesses, the STT group is committed to adopting framework and policies around environmental sustainability consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. StarHub and VIRTUS have award-winning approaches and we propose to have an integrated group framework in place in 2021.
I am very proud of the people we have at STT and our portfolio companies. Their collaborative resilience and unrelenting commitment have made it possible to continue to serve customers, advance business development efforts, and support the underprivileged in our communities throughout 2020. Equally important, I am grateful to customers of our portfolio companies, business partners and investors for your steadfast confidence in us. Together, with the continuing support of STT’s Board of Directors, I am optimistic of the outcomes and impact we will achieve as a group in 2021 and beyond.