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VEON Ltd. (VEON) Q4 2019 Earnings Call Transcript

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VEON Ltd. (NASDAQ: VEON)
Q4 2019 Earnings Call
Feb 14, 2020, 7:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Nik Kershaw

Good morning, everyone, and thanks so much for taking time to come to our full-year results presentation. My name is Nik Kershaw. I'm head of investor relations for VEON. With me today in the room, we've got Ursula Burns, our CEO and chairman.

We've got Kaan Terzioglu and Sergi, who are currently our joint chief operating officers; and Alex Kazbegi, who's our chief strategy officer for the group. Just the presentation for today, really, the format, we're going to go through. We'll start with an overview both of the fourth-quarter results and full-year results that Ursula will do, followed by a brief discussion of the financial performance for the quarter from Alex. We'll then turn our attention to the key themes across some of our bigger markets, and Kaan and Sergi will deal with that.

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After that, Alex will come back, touch a little bit on the capital allocation and our dividend and then back to Ursula for closing remarks. As always, we'll ensure that there's ample time at the end for questions. So if we can save that just to the end of the presentation. Before getting started today, if you can all just take a moment and carefully read through the disclaimer.

Just note very briefly to exercise. These statements relate in part to the company's anticipated performance and guidance for 2020, future market developments and trends, operational and network developments and network investments, and the company's ability to realize its targets and commercial and strategic initiatives, including current and future transactions. Certain factors may cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements, including the risks detailed in the company's annual report on Form 20-F and other recent public filings made by the company and the SEC. The earnings release and earnings presentation, each of which include reconciliations for IFRS that we presented today can be downloaded from our website.

With that, I'm going to hand over to Ursula. And just as Ursula is walking up, I'd just like to say this is going to be the last time that you're going to see Ursula onstage as our CEO. So thank you very much, Ursula, for everything you've done for the company over the last few years.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Thank you. Thank you. Good to see you guys again. It's Valentine's Day.

You look not too thrilled to be here. Before getting started, I'd like to remind you of some of the announcements that we made earlier. Thank you, Nik, for introducing me. Thanks all of you for being in the room and for people who are listening on the phone.

Thank you for being here as well. As I said before, I get too far into the numbers. I'd like to just make sure and to remind you that we announced today a significant transition. One is that I'll be stepping down as a CEO, but more importantly, that Kaan and Sergi will be taking over as co-CEOs of the company, and I'll remain as Chair.

This will be the first time that you see them on the stage in these roles, and I hope you spend some time asking them questions and get to know them -- getting to know them. I've known them now collectively for probably six or seven months. They've worked together for the last four months as co-COOs, and I am very confident in their ability to run the company and to work together for good results. So I'm happy that they're here.

And in addition, earlier today, we announced the transition of Vasyl Latsanych, who will step down as CEO of Russia in June of this year, and Kaan will get into more details about what's happening in Russia and the structure that he's putting in Russia to make sure that we implement fully the already designed and started turnaround plan that we have in Russia. So let me go deeper into the overview of our business. If you've been following us for a while, you know that this is a slide that we use to kind of foundation everyone into the business. It talks about our strategy, and it talks a little bit about the achievements that we have in this case for the full-year 2019 and for the quarter.

First, ours is a business that is positioned for growth in some of the industry's most dynamic markets, which collectively present to us with exciting growth opportunities in both our core services, but also in digital services and adjacent markets. In 2019, we accelerated our investment activities to ensure that we capture these opportunities through the expansion of our 4G networks, including in Russia, where we deployed more 4G base stations than any other operator during the course of the year. And you'll hear in the fourth quarter, we installed more 4G base stations than any other quarter in the year for ourselves as well. At the same time, we have strengthened our management structure to make sure that we can focus more locally and deeply on the markets that we are operating in and that we can actually execute on the growth themes closer to the markets.

And we've put in place local boards. It's a big change for us. Local boards, which draw on the considerable talent pools that we have in the markets, that we operate in, and we include independent directors into this local board structure to make sure that we stay close to the markets and close to the influences of those markets. We also appointed the CEOs, and these CEOs will divide their attentions among key market areas.

And as I said earlier, I'm pretty sure that they'll be able to do that extremely well. Second, our group continued to enjoy really strong organic EBITDA growth in 2019, and it's interesting. It's driven by what we called our growth markets of Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and it offset some of the weakness that we saw in Russia. Those good operational performance, along with cost control, both at the headquarters, which we spoke about from the beginning of the year, but also throughout the operating companies, has allowed us to actually generate good EBITDA and also good equity free cash flow for 2019.

Last thing, which is a big piece of news for us, something that we don't spend a lot of time talking to outside, but what's a big lightening of load for us is that we were able to close down both the monitorship, the external monitorship, and a deferred prosecution agreement that were on VEON. We did that in third quarter -- fourth quarter of 2019, and it's a really important certification and recognition that we are ready for the big time in the real world of managing our business in a very compliant way as we go forward. As I tell my team, this is graduation. So we've graduated, and now we have to do it by ourselves, and I'm pretty confident we will be able to do that.

Third, 2019 saw us continue to simplify the corporate structure. And when I first got here, we spent quite a bit of time in these meetings talking to you about GTH, the GTH story every quarter. Great news is that we were able to get through the MTO and GTH in 2019. That transaction allowed us to simplify the structure.

It brings our shareholders closer to the returns and the dynamics of the markets of Algeria, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, which is all good for us and also good for our shareholders. Also, in 2019, we were able to, along with Telenor, actually lighten the load of Telenor. They sold out of their shares totally in a planned way, the way that they told us they were going to be able to do that, and that allowed us to bring on new shareholders and increase our free fold to 43.8%. So I think the basic blocking and tackling portions of structure and operations, we were able to do very, very well in 2019.

And fourth, we continue to enhance our capital structure. We issued about $1 billion. It was not about it. It was $1 billion in senior unsecured notes.

That allowed us to actually refinance some of our short-term debt and borrowings, helped us lower our debt cost and just improved the process overall. We entered 2020 with a gearing ratio of 1.7 times against our two times target, so very well in range. And we were able to actually design a strategy and implement a strategy that allowed us significantly more flexibility. It's interesting when we look at our return on equity, it is not something that we speak about a lot, and we're going to talk about it a little bit more from now on.

We were at 27% ROE, which, for a market in an industry that's not really known for high returns, this is a very, very good return for our telco business. Our value proposition also extends to our dividend. This year, 2019, we will release a total of USD 0.28 per share, $0.28 per share of dividend, $0.15 in this quarter that we're announcing now. It's a very good dividend return, a very good dividend yield for our company, so good dividend year.

Capital structure kind of finalized and settled down. A lot of the operational executional areas kind of laid well and really, really good investment trends that you'll be able to see from both Kaan and Sergi. Turning to our results for the quarter. I'll do these pretty quickly because I don't want to be repetitive.

But I would say good, good and good, so good quarter 4. This portfolio really helped us. This was a quarter that showed what a portfolio can do for you, weakness in Russia, offset by strength in our growth areas in our frontier markets and allowed us to actually report revenues that grew slightly at 0.2% to USD 2.3 billion. Good operational delivery in the frontier markets and in the growth markets and a really good plan for turnaround in Russia, so I'm feeling confident there.

You'll see Pakistan always kind of comes out looking a little bit strangely because of the suo motu effects, but Pakistan has had an outstanding year, had a very, very strong year. Ukraine had a great year. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan had very good years as well. I'm also going to bring out Bangladesh of all markets for me to talk about.

But Bangladesh, it's a small market for us -- a smaller market for us. We're positioned well, and our strategy for Bangladesh is good. So in the past, it was a headwind for us, but now it's turning out to be a little bit of a tailwind, and we're pretty excited about some of the futures in Bangladesh as well. So growth was, once again, driven by mobile data usage.

Of all the trends there, it increased 17.7% for us, and it's all driven by 4G and new services that we provide to our clients. The success that we secured in managing our cost is evident in EBITDA. We had USD 935 million of EBITDA. On a pre-IFRS basis, it's USD 808 million.

I'm not going to go through repeating pre-IFRS every time I have to say it, so you can look at it and see it yourself. This represents organic growth of about 12.5% or 30%. And finally, our group generated $1 billion in equity free cash flow, $1.36 billion of equity free cash flow pre-IFRS, and this includes the settlement that we got from Ericsson. Let me now talk a little bit about the full-year numbers.

Same good performance across the board, good growth at the top line, reasonable growth at the top line, 3.4% to USD 8.9 billion. Very pleasing, organic EBITDA rose 9.6% to USD 4.2 billion and all driven by the same thing. Good data usage, good users of our services and just implementation of 4G and offering better services around the world to our clients. Equity free cash flow for the year, 1.36%.

I've told you this already, $350 million from Ericsson in the first half of the year. Cost is a big, big focus for us at the headquarters, but in the countries as well, and it will continue to be. We still have a lot of tailwind in this area that we can continue to kind of drive good EBITDA and good cash flow by managing our cost even better. Taken together, 27% ROE.

So looking forward, we told you in 2019 that we're going to grow our revenue low single digits. So we're going to grow our EBITDA mid-single digits, and then we're going to deliver $1 billion, check, check, check, 3.4% growth, 9.6% growth and $1,004 million in equity free cash flow. So I think it was a solid year. As we move forward into 2020, it's a new decade.

And we just have to remind ourselves that we still have a lot of work to do and a lot of opportunities. Let me remind you of those opportunities. First, we're positioned for growth, and we have a diversified set of markets, most of them emerging markets. Very exciting demographic trends in those markets.

We're positioned for strong organic growth. We're investing to get that growth. We're investing in networks. We're investing in people.

We're investing in key services to make sure that we can grab hold of the opportunity in front of us. Second, our group has a solid track record of operational execution, and it's all built on maximizing growth and continuing to lower our cost, so focus on the places that we can get leverage and lower the cost as much as possible to be efficient, not to be cheap. Our biggest challenge in the near term is Russia, for sure, but we've dived into Russia in unbelievable detail. Kaan will take you through it in more detail and show you some of it here.

And we have a strategy firmly in place that, I think, we can implement and take advantage of. And you'll see throughout our organization, I talked about this when I first got up here a year ago or a year and a half ago. We have 10 countries, and we have 10 great leaders. We have 10 countries, and we have all the leaders who are fit for purpose.

And we are going to continue to make sure that they have the expertise from the center, the advice from the local advisors and a set of market conditions that allow them to actually practice how good they are in front of their clients. I'm feeling really good about the leadership team out in the field. Third, we're committed to enhancing shareholder value through capital allocation to actively managing this for us. This means that we're going to strengthen our balance sheet.

Debt markets, whenever they present us with an opportunity, we're going to take advantage of that opportunity, reduce our borrowing cost, optimize our fixed funding in our currencies to make sure that we are not over-weighted or underweighted in any area that we are really flexible and viable in that area, and I think Alex will get into a little bit of that for you. It also means that we have to continue to focus on our shareholders, while balancing that focus through returning value to our shareholders with investing for the future. And then finally, actively manage our portfolio. Ventures is going to start to become a bigger play for us.

It doesn't mean we're going to take our eye off of the base infrastructure business that we have, but we have to actually put a little bit more weight on the ventures, and we'll be able to do that. We have a great team, starting with Sergi, but he has a team that he's building under him in a country basis as well that we would be able to take advantage of this opportunity that lays ahead of us in the venture space. And before we move and I give it over to Alex, I just want to make sure I remind you of our 10 countries, as well as comprising about 10% of the world's population. It actually has an interesting world bank statistics.

We have the top -- we have six of the top seven highest unbanked on nation percentage. This is a huge opportunity for one of our ventures business of mobile financial services. A lot of people turn away from this kind of a market. We run right into it.

It's a big opportunity for us, particularly in offering services that brings these populations closer to the "first-world populations." It also enables us to empower them to -- as I said, to bring them up. And the gender mix also has driven -- it helped here, as well as more women are unbanked than men, so it's facing into all the positive trends that we're seeing in the world. On that note, let me hand it over to Alex Kazbegi. He will take us through some of the detailed performance.

You can come up.

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Thank you, Urusula.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Welcome.

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Good afternoon, everybody. Let me start with the first slide, which is to remind everybody our vision for the group as a portfolio of diversified assets. We clustered this into three different clusters: the cornerstone, the growth engines, and the frontier markets. Now in the cornerstone, which is largely Russia, our main and bedrock of the business market, we had a challenging quarter.

The fourth quarter was difficult as well, where we had the pricing, distribution and network issues, which have been affecting our performance. We have been taking a very active look at the market, and we are taking serious measures to turn it around. Kaan will discuss it in much more detail when he comes up here. What we have underperformed in Russia, we actually have outperformed in the other markets, namely in the growth engines.

The growth engines, Pakistan and Ukraine, had an outstanding year, double-digit growth of the revenues. Also a very strong year in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. And here, the main growth is fueled by effectively data penetration and data growth. In the frontier markets, the performance was a bit more mixed.

Here, it is also dominated by countries like Bangladesh and Algeria. Nevertheless, they still contribute about 15% of our consolidated EBITDA. What we like in this market is the long-term optionality which we see in those markets. Now to remind you why we are, so to say, in these markets.

If you remember also, we are aligning our business engine between the connectivity, the new services and the future assets. So if you look at each of these verticals, each of them gives us very exciting opportunities to see delivering growth in the future. For instance, on the connectivity side, we have 212 million subscribers worldwide. And only 137 of them are actually using data services, ample opportunities to grow there.

We are in the markets where the population is going to grow by 10% over the next decade. And if you look at the demographic profile of that population, it's also very encouraging and very much supporting the, so to say, the growth of the digital prosperity in those markets. If you go into the new services where the digital services is highly demanded again by the customers in our countries here as well, we have only 34% penetration, average penetration, across the group of the 4G devices. And we only have 3.3 million TV users out of again 212 million subscribers altogether.

The last vertical, which is the future assets. Here, specifically, we're looking at the financial services. And again, financial services represent a very interesting vertical for us to grow pretty much in all the markets. We'll stop by about Pakistan, which we're specifically excited about.

But in general, again, here too, we have only 11% penetration of the mobile financial services through our subscriber base and about 7.3 million digital subscribers. Moving to more, if you wish, operational KPIs. And again, depicting exactly the same verticals. For instance, in the connectivity business, we grow very fast the self-care applications.

Russia is a leader here. Beeline Russia now has more than 20% of their subscribers, which are using the self-care app. In the new services business is content. Also, as I said, 3.3 million monthly average users.

Majority of them are in Russia, again, a nice growth here from the Beeline Russia, where we saw an increase to 2.2 million subscribers on the Beeline TV. And the financial services, here, again, so to say, the main component here of the growth comes from Pakistan, where as I said, we are very excited to have this unique opportunity of having a JazzCash, which is one of the leading operator of the mobile financial services in the market, and they already have 7.3 digital wallets. Moving now to our financials. So Ursula covered the annual financials.

If you look at more detail in our fourth-quarter numbers, the revenues on a reported basis were largely flat. You can see here that the biggest negative contributor to growth was Russia. However, this was offset quite nicely by our growth engines, also with Bangladesh. The two anomalies here, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, which actually shows here as a negative contribution, in reality, because the countries have had introduction of the new taxes throughout the year.

If you actually look at the like-for-like basis, then Pakistan would have shown a 14% growth, and Uzbekistan will show actually an 8% growth. A very strong growth, generally, so to say, across the group. Also, you can see that this is probably for the first time this year, we had a positive movement in FX. And FX actually contributed positively to our numbers.

Lower side, on the EBITDA, the picture is very similar. However, again, if you look at the Russia contribution to EBITDA, while it is negative, it is actually much smaller negative than the revenues, which means that actually, on the margin side, Russia actually did quite well. Also, what I want to highlight here is the corporate costs. Those corporate costs in Q4 also have a provision, a severance provision of $55.5 million.

And nevertheless, the corporate cost has had a positive contribution to our fourth-quarter numbers. As a result of that, the overall organic EBITDA grew in the fourth quarter year on year by 12.5%. And we saw in the same quarter, a four-percentage point expansion in the EBITDA margin. If we look by product, the same chart, by the product, you can see clearly that voice continues to decline, and it's more than offset -- well, it is offset by the data and the MFS growth.

On the EBITDA side, you can see that the small fall in the service revenues have been more than offset by the cost reduction throughout the group, and that comes both from the operating units, as well as continuous reduction at the headquarters as well. The net debt development. We are quite pleased that our net debt year on year from the Q4 '18 to Q4 '19, net debt-to-EBITDA didn't really change, 1.7 times. Having said that, I have to say that if you adjust for Ericsson, which has been included in our EBITDA, the actual EBITDA would have been closer to 1.9 times net debt to EBITDA.

And if you look at our gross debt performance then here, we've been quite busy over the last four months. First, we raised about $700 million 2025 bonds in October, and that followed by another tranche of about $300 million, which we raised in January. So altogether, we raised about $1 billion of fresh debt. That's mostly to retire revolving credit facility and reduce the cost of borrowing altogether.

The cost of borrowing indeed declined, however, quite marginally from 7.5% last year to 7.4% this year. But that is partially explained by the fact that in the meantime, our actual exposure to the ruble debt increased from 42% of total to actually 47% of total. And clearly, the ruble debt carries higher coupon, so when you look at the weighted average numbers, they are a bit hiding the reality, if you wish. The maturity of our debt came down from about three to about 2.4.

But what is also good that the total cash and unused committed credit lines at the end of this quarter comprised actually $3.2 billion. Now with that, I would like to invite Kaan to talk in more detail on our operating performance.

Kaan Terzioglu -- Chief Operating Officer

Alex, thank you very much. Hello. I would like to give a little bit more color about our operations in Russia and Kazakhstan. As Ursula and Alex mentioned, we announced a quite strong results compared to our guidance, exceeding and meeting those, but we are not shy of also talking about some difficulties that we are facing.

And I want to give you a little bit more detail about our get-well plan in Russia and how things are going. So first of all, if I would present a chart like this, with 6% growth over '16 to '19 in a developed market, it would have been a quite good picture. But we don't benchmark ourselves in developed markets. For emerging markets, with 55 million customers we have, only 38% of them being a 4G subscriber, we have a unique opportunity in Russia, which we felt like we have been delayed in grasping.

As we set our Q3 results, our Russian operation has been underperforming based on our own expectations. There are clear issues. We have a network quality gap, which we have been addressing in the last six months and which we will be completing our work for the next six months. Russia overall is a very inefficient market, overall with distribution.

We also suffer from the same issue. And as you will see later on, our focus is, first, digital and optimizing our physical distribution network in a new business model perspective. Price, Russia has been marked with unlimited, undifferentiated offers for a very long time in the past 18 months. The good news is market is rationalizing and getting rid of these type of unlimited, undifferentiated offers into much more reasonable, economically sensible offers.

And naturally, all these impacts have been showed its effect in our latest Q4 results as well. We fell 3.3% year over year. And clearly, we are looking for ways of turning this trend over the next couple of quarters. Our total decline in mobile services revenues has been 5.9%, and it's a combination of pricing, as well as 1.1% decline in the subscriber base.

Even strong, very strong business momentum on B2B business and home connectivity has done little to compensate this. No surprise that we are exactly focusing on these issues, to turn our business back into the growth mode. Compared to a year ago, today we have 48% more base stations in Russia. We have been accelerating, closing the gap.

Actually, as Ursula mentioned, we have been No. 1 in terms of deploying networks in Russia this year in 4G. And 86% of the population, up from 78% last year, is now covered with 4G. The business, the growth potential is clearly on the LTE customers.

There is a clear differentiation of revenues per subscriber based on 2G, 3G and 4G, which is up to 2.8 times. As you can imagine, as we develop more customer base on LTE from 38% to 50% to 60%, we are going to see the impact of this important digitalization as well. Our motto, as I mentioned, is digital first. Our industry is blessed with every single customer with a smartphone having a shop in their pockets.

We have to leverage this. Today, we have more than 10 million active users on our MyBeeline application, which is 28% of our total base. And these customers are able to be enjoying a much easier way of dealing with their Internet consumptions. We have to leave no customer behind and get this 28% to 100%.

It's a very important step in terms of increasing our distribution efficiency in the market. Along these measures, we have also noted that we have to change our organization, so that we can have a higher capacity to execute. Simplifying the organization, focusing on core functions, naming a chief customer experience Officer to put the customer back on to the top table has been one of our priorities. As we announced yesterday, our General Manager, Vasyl Latsanych, has decided to step down.

And during the period that we will be looking for a new leader in Russia, I will be taking over the executive powers as the chairman of the local board of directors in Beeline Russia. Vasyl will continue to support me as an advisor during the next six months. And I really would like to underline our most critical thing is to get our Net Promoter Scores back to the No. 1 position, step by step, first in Moscow, then in the top 12 cities and later on in the entire Russia.

As I mentioned, this exercise has been going on for the last six months. We have already started seeing our results in terms of we catching up with investments, quality of our network improving and also stabilization of the pricing in the marketplace. Russia, on the other side, is a prime market for growing ecosystem of new services. Just look at these three specific examples.

10.1 million active subscribers of MyBeeline application means sales channels for cross revenues is implemented. We have an opportunity to double, triple this number over the next two years. And our success will heavily depend on digitalization of our customer interface. Beeline TV has already reached 2.2 million monthly active users.

And on the mobile financial services, we have reached almost 5 million subscribers. And all these things prove that if we are able to enhance our LTE base, subscriber base, we will be able to see the results of turning the business by the end of this year. So just to summarize, the clear actions we are taking in Russia, customer at the heart of our business. We will be focusing on 10 commandments for best customer service, and we will be known for it over the time that we will implement our changes.

Improving network coverage is critical for our business. We have a plan to improve and become the best network in Moscow in top 12 cities over the next 12 months and also start complete coverage of the metro in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Digital channels is the fundamental of our business and also, in a way, for us, stepping stone for developing into adjacent markets.

We're going to be closing down our unprofitable stores, and this number will probably be reaching around 600 over the next couple of months. Enhancing the customer value proposition through segmented offers, but more importantly growing the customer engagement in the new digital and adjacent markets will be our plans for improved performance. I would like to mention that our Q4 results in Russia has been kind of the end of the trend, which we will see growing over the next couple of quarters. And in Q4, we expect to be back on year-on-year growth terms.

A little bit about Kazakhstan. This is the first quarter we are giving more light on Kazakhstan in terms of our disclosures. A beautiful market, moving from three-player to two-player environment, getting stability and also higher customer attention in the 4G markets. 41% of our customers are LTE customers.

And this number has doubled over the last 12 months. And as you can see, our convergent products, meaning that customers that are consuming voice and data, but minimum one more subscription-based service from us. The revenues from these types of customers have been up 76%. Thanks to more TV subscribers, which increased 65% and also financial services subscribers, which increased 117%.

Our business here is also operating under the name Beeline, and it is one of the most successful operations in growing its subscriber base. Our new brand called Djezzy, which is a digital-only brand is a pure-play case of how we can tackle customer acquisitions, utilizing our digital channels. And beyond 4G, Kazakhstan is also the market where we are looking for 5G test bed. We have deployed one of the biggest territories, almost 13 square kilometers of area lighting up with 5G for potential vertical based solutions.

And in this environment, we have one gigabit per second of speeds tested successfully. And as I mentioned, Kazakhstan is also an area where Sergi's and my efforts of building a next-generation digital operator is tested and producing results. Let me now hand over to Sergi for a little bit more about Pakistan and Ukraine. Sergi?

Sergi Herrero -- Chief Operating Officer

Thank you, Kaan. This may be Ursula's last earnings call. It's my first earnings call, so bear with me because I'm not used to do this. I would like to talk first about Pakistan.

You know Pakistan well. It's been one of our biggest and fastest-growing markets. This is true also for Q4, where we saw our revenues grew almost 16.1% or 14.1% if we exclude the impact of the new tax regime. The reality is that we are leaders also in 4G.

Our network is the fastest and most reliable one, and this also translated in a growth in our user base, where we grew up to 61 million customers. We want to use this opportunity to extend our position there. And we see partnerships as a way to do it. An example is the one that we launched with KaiOS.

You probably remember KaiOS, it's popular because of their partnership in India with Reliance. What we did here is to bring these devices to a market, which has 90 million 2G handsets, 90 million on a population of 200 million. We see this as a pocket of users that we are not serving today. The goal here is to provide cheap, but very powerful device.

So people that are not using 4G compared to 4G. And the idea also here is to expand to verticals that today we are not covering like our ecosystem, which probably you heard we talk about JazzCash in the past. We mentioned it before, JazzCash just passed actually 8 million wallets, so which is a very nice growth there. But we want also to complement this ecosystem with more apps.

One of them is Jazz TV. Jazz TV is the largest paid streaming up in Pakistan. And I would stress the paid component because it's a market which is not well known for paid apps. So when it comes to TV consumption, we have more than 1 million monthly subscribers, 5,000 hours of content.

And live sports, like cricket, which is a main thing in Pakistan. We're going to continue to invest in that area to bring local content and make it a true Pakistani experience. The fact that the app has been already 4 million times in the past few months, reflects the interest of engagement that our users have with this type of products. The second app that I wanted to talk about today, it's the partnership that we launched with BIMA.

It's a healthcare app. The product here allows you to have a teledoctor, a telemedicine product, 24 hours available, where you can connect with a doctor now anywhere in Pakistan. They provide advice when it comes to health, but you can also order your prescriptions and get it delivered to your home with a reduced cost and the same quality of going a pharmacy. This is pretty relevant because Pakistan, as you know, it's a very rural area, so it requires this type of services.

So we are very proud of these two. The idea here is to continue to build this ecosystem. So people see value on being a Jazz customer, but not only for Jazz customers, the idea here is to also open it up to all customers that are not Jazz. The focus for this year, as we said before, it's to continue this conversion of our user base to 4G.

We see it growing quite nicely, but we want to accelerate that part. We also want to accelerate the growth of our ecosystem. I mentioned three of the big apps, but there's also other areas that we are exploring there. And finally, double down with JazzCash, so we can finally push it to growth.

If I now move to Ukraine, this is another market where we enjoyed a lot of growth for the past years. And this is also true for this one, where we grew 16.1% our revenues. But also, more importantly, the loyalty of our customers, it's been constant. We have the lowest churn in the market with 4.7%.

The plan here is similar to Pakistan, continue to invest in the 4G rollout, build an ecosystem of apps, mainly financial services and content distribution, and finally, upgrade these consumers to 4G. And with that, I'll bring it to Alex.

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Thank you.

Sergi Herrero -- Chief Operating Officer

Thank you.

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Second try. Just a few words on the capital allocation and our priorities. So going back again to our triangle, which we introduced during the capital markets day, and we discussed about the way how we look at our business, which is an interconnected businesses of connectivity, new services, and the future assets. So with that, that also defines the way how we look at our investments and our priorities of investments.

So the first priority is into the connectivity, where the network and especially improving the network in Russia has the No. 1 priority, but not only Russia. We will be investing also to expand and improve our general coverage and capacity and speeds in all the markets we operate, especially [Technical difficulty]. The last one would be to go to our guidance for 2020, and here, we have the total revenues.

We're looking at the low single-digit local currency growth. We're looking at mid-single-digit local currency growth in EBITDA. This is very similar to actually what we had already for 2019. And the last one, we're actually changing a bit our guidance here.

We used to guide on negative free cash flows. We think it's much more relevant to guide on operating capex to revenues, and that will be somewhere between 21% and 22%. I have also to say that over time, this number will clearly decline. With that, I would like to turn back to Ursula for closing remarks.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Stay up there, Alex, because you're going to come up soon, anyway. No, I guess you can get down. So thank you. We're going to move into Q&A.

So our guys can come up, and we can start positioning the chairs while I'm closing. It's 2019, a pretty good year, lots of changes inside the company, obviously, leadership changes across the top of the group, big change in Russia and a big focus on Russia on making sure that we can really get all of the engines growing. We have the growth engines growing. We have to get this core market growing and continuing to move the frontier markets along, for us, is a big deal.

You saw the financial guidance, basically a mirror of this year, and I'm pretty confident that we deliver that. As I said, returning Russia to growth is a key priority. Services, provision through 4G through a pickup of the population in using our services and delivering them, network capacity, just investing for the basic business is what we're going to do, and we want that to parlay itself into growth. We talked about -- we no longer even spend a lot of time on the head office.

It is the way it is. We continue to shrink the cost in the head office, but more importantly, increase the focus to adding value to the field operations. And we're going to invest to grow the future of the business and make sure that we do that while returning value to our shareholders. So look for us in 2000 -- well look for them in 2020.

I'll be sitting in the audience when that comes around. So thank you. Now let's go into Q&A, I think. Is there anybody who's going to help us with this or I'm going to do it myself? I'm fine with it.

And we've got mics around. So why don't you?

Alexander Vassiouk -- Prosperity Capital Management -- Analyst

Alexander Vassiouk from Prosperity Capital Management. Just wanted to clarify on your dividend outlook and policy. So it sounds as though you're not quite sure what's going to happen, so you prefer to wait and see whether to maintain the dividend and so on. So maybe you can help us understand.

If you look at your capex guidance, it doesn't seem as though are going to increase your investment in absolute terms in 2020, and yet your leverage is still within your policy. So what's your position on this capital allocation versus dividends? And why are you not so sure about your ability to maintain dividend at this point?

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

So I'll have Alex start and then...

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Well, first of all, I mean, if you remember, at the capital markets day, when we introduced the new dividend policy, the whole idea of that dividend policy was to give us flexibility in order to choose whether we could take -- we don't want to miss on the opportunities which we see in the markets. The previous dividend policy was very restrictive in terms of what we committed, so to say, to pay, and we thought that it will be much easier for us to maintain something where it is fairly clearly defined. It's at least 50% of the equity free cash flows after licenses but having the ability to redirect the funds to the projects, which we find are interesting for us. Talking about the capex, actually, capex is going to be in absolute terms, higher this year, so there is absolutely no doubt about that.

We have about three-point percentage points increase in the capex spending if you look at the capex to revenue, so there's clearly more investments going on. And as we define these investments are very targeted for the areas where we see either necessity to increase or we see the growth opportunities. That's why I highlighted the network, highlighted the Pakistan JazzCash and highlighted any other, so to say, opportunities we might see in terms of providing the new digital services and so on and so forth. The last thing about maybe which you meant on dividend is that there will be only one payment of the dividend for this year, and we didn't want, indeed, to continue giving guidance for the future.

Again, for the same reasons, we just want to give the flexibility at the moment, which gives us the opportunity to make a bit more agile decisions about where to invest and how to grow.

Alexander Vassiouk -- Prosperity Capital Management -- Analyst

Sorry, but it's a bit confusing. So your capex to revenue in 2019 is 23.1%, yes, based on your press release, Page 10, and you're guiding to 21%...

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Maybe that has something with the IFRS adjustments. That should be including IFRS.

Alexander Vassiouk -- Prosperity Capital Management -- Analyst

OK. So pre-IFRS, it's 19.6%.

Kaan Terzioglu -- Chief Operating Officer

It's a one-off investment, especially.

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

That's why I'm saying three percentage points above what we did before.

Alexander Vassiouk -- Prosperity Capital Management -- Analyst

OK. But then you're also targeting some revenue increase, so it's not really like a step-up in...

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Well, it's not a significant investment because, I mean, we're also not feeling that we need to make a significant investment. We are feeling that we need to have -- we identified the areas where there's extra capex required, and we're directing it that way.

Alexander Vassiouk -- Prosperity Capital Management -- Analyst

OK. And what is the risk that you might want to reconsider your capex level for 2020?

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Higher or lower. I think it's fairly -- we're pretty disciplined and have been over the years, not only this year, over the quarters and over the years in capex. And so I don't think that the outlook that we have now...

Kaan Terzioglu -- Chief Operating Officer

And maybe also, it would not be right to compare when we talk about an increase from '19 to '20 because in '19, we have already taken actions to increase our actual capex. So if you look to the trend in '17, '18, this is actually really the level that we need to see the capex investments.

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

And as we were also saying that after this year, we will see this trending down rather than trending up.

Alexander Vassiouk -- Prosperity Capital Management -- Analyst

OK. Thank you.

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

[Inaudible] you just take the 22% of revenues versus 19%, that is -- and the revenue growth was flat. That would imply 15% more capex. And if your revenue is growing that we've guided for growing revenue, that in fact passive capex is growing north of 15% year on year. So effectively, our guidance is for our capex to grow between 15% to 20% year on year, so that is quite a big step-up in capex.

Alexander Vassiouk -- Prosperity Capital Management -- Analyst

OK. OK.

Unknown speaker

[Inaudible] I have a question on Russia. I'd like to understand better the issue of the network quality. Can you maybe explain in more detail what the issues are and what actions you plan to take to fix them and a timetable as well, if possible?

Kaan Terzioglu -- Chief Operating Officer

Sure, sure. Russia being 50% of our business, Moscow is almost 50% of that. So Moscow experienced, over the last two years, a significant swap of the network from one platform to the other. And I have to admit that our execution of that swap has not been up to the standards that we would like to see.

Now the good side of the issue is we know exactly what the issues are, and we have put remedies already in place to improve the quality of our network. We will not only improve the current quality of the network. We will enhance our network coverage in Moscow and Oblast of Moscow, as well as covering the metro. Now we have already started covering the metro with WiFi, so our customers are actually now enjoying connectivity also in the metro and the stations and the tunnels.

But over the time, we will also deploy the metro as well. It will take a little bit longer, one year to complete the LTE deployment there, but we have identified the pain points which was affecting our customers, and we are addressing those one by one. Now Moscow will be followed by St. Petersburg and the top 11 cities on top of that, and we are progressing with the overall rollout.

We are currently at 86% of LTE coverage in Russia. And expect this to reach toward the 90-ish by the end of the year as well.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

We do expect to start to see a positive impact toward the end of the year. Some of this will take time. Next question. We have some on the line.

So the operator, please queue the questions on the conference line.

Unknown speaker

[Inaudible]

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Can you hold on, sir? We have to turn up the volume a bit.

Unknown speaker

So operator, are there any questions in the conference call, please?

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

While they're getting the act together, any questions on the floor? We'll take one more here.

Questions & Answers:


Operator

A question comes from the line of Alexander Vengranovich from Renaissance Capital. Please ask your question.

Alexander Vengranovich -- Prosperity Capital Management -- Analyst

Yes, good afternoon. Two questions from my side. So the first one is on your listing structure. Do you have any specific plans to change this year? Are you comfortable with your Amsterdam and U.S.

listing which you have right now? Do you plan to have any measures to implement to change this or to make the listing structure more attractive for your investors and potentially get some inclusion in the relevant indices so that will be interesting? And just the second question is more like a matter of interest. Do you have any disruptions in any of the markets where you operate with regards to the supply of the smartphones because of the Chinese virus outbreaks? Thank you.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Alex will take the listing, and then Kaan will take...

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Alex, I'll take the first one. I mean, the question definitely is close to our hearts. I mean, we understand the issue. We've been looking at various potential, so to say, opportunities, but we haven't made yet any final decision.

So I think that it will be fair to say that once the final decision is made, we will, of course, communicate back to the markets, but we are very much aware of that opportunity for us.

Alexander Vengranovich -- Prosperity Capital Management -- Analyst

Alex, can you communicate the timing, maybe when you'll be ready to communicate the decision whether you're going to change the leasing structure or not, or you can't?

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

I think we'll communicate when we're ready to communicate.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

We're not ready to do that now, but I think Alex's answer was pretty comprehensive.

Kaan Terzioglu -- Chief Operating Officer

And with regard to the supply chain, especially about smartphones, there is no doubt that the supply chain is impacted. However, the current impact is limited to improving off the stock turn rates, so I'm actually happy that that market gets rehabilitated in most of our operations.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Tell me when the phone -- operator, tell us when the phone line is ready. But in the meantime, we'll stay in the room.

Dilya Ibragimova -- Citi -- Analyst

Hi. This is Dilya from Citi. A quick question, well, actually, two. Could you give us a bit more insight on the decision to structure the management the way you did and why you decided to split the markets the way you did, and why not, for example, growth in Frontier? Or like is there any synergies in doing Russia and CIS and then the Asia and Middle East together? And second question is on your targets for asset optimization -- or portfolio optimization, rather.

Maybe if you could give us an update where you see opportunities and whether they are long term or medium term or short term?

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

So first, just to clarify or make clear the split in the market, these two individuals will co-lead this business. This is not like one guy runs Russia, the other guy runs -- they're either chairs or deputy chairs or, what do you call them, deputy chairs of each of the markets. So it's not like he just does Russia, he just does Pakistan. It's going to be co-leadership.

They have a different set of intense skills in certain areas. And what we want to do, we've picked markets that need those intense skills to align with the individuals. So Pakistan is clearly a market that's operating very well, and we'll hum on the venture space and on the growth space. That's the only split.

There was no trying to put it together in any kind of scientific way other than where they like to travel. Think about it that way, but it's not really that scientific. And I expect them both -- I and the board expects them both to co-manage the markets and to bring whatever skills they can to each of the locations. Your second question was about...

Dilya Ibragimova -- Citi -- Analyst

Portfolio optimization.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Right. So portfolio optimization, I'll have Alex take that one.

Sergi Herrero -- Chief Operating Officer

I thought I might interrupt to complement Ursula's question or answer. Russia, for me, is one of the markets where I expect to see most of digital. So I'm not sharing that particular word, but the time that I spent and the focus is definitely probably the biggest one among of Pakistan and Ukraine. So the idea here is to leverage the best of both sides.

And definitely, when there's something about network optimization, Kaan is where I position, then myself and the other way around. That's something about digital I'll chime in.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

And the reason why we did the co-CEOs, that was the first part of your question. There's a lot of ways to run a business, a lot of ways to structure it. We actually had the opportunity to get -- because Kaan was on our board for how many months before?

Unknown speaker

Yes, four months.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Yes, four months before. We had the opportunity to get two leaders in, and I think it's a great opportunity for me to try. So we went to the board and said, "Yes, how about this?" We can bring this in. It's 10 markets.

They're very different. They are moving very fast, and they're large. And all of them, both of them have a set of core connectivity intensity that we have to focus on and a set of new services and new offers. And what generally happens in these kinds of situations is that you double down on one or the other, not both.

And what I think we can do for the next couple of years for the foreseeable future, this kind of run, this doubling down on both where we have a guy who can think about this while the other person is thinking about that, but they have to work closely together because they can only coexist. So I think it's just a good way to do it when you have the talent that we have.

Sergi Herrero -- Chief Operating Officer

And if you look around, the other telcos, they tried to do some real split because they have to deal with this type of dilemma, either you focus on doubling down on connectivity or trying to become digital. What we've tried to do with this is have two people, so this way that we don't become kind of a schizophrenic, and we can complement each other in these two areas.

Kaan Terzioglu -- Chief Operating Officer

And actually, what makes me excited about this joint leadership is we set the tone at the top to every local operation that it takes digital and also the telco capabilities to work together. And telcos are big, slow animals. They can crowd out digital very fast. And I think by setting the tone at our level, we will make sure that this is a joint teamwork and the next-generation telco will be about actually different skill sets working together.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

And Alex?

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Yeah. I don't know what you mean by optimizing. We're not looking to optimize. We're looking to maximize, maximize the returns.

So question is -- if your question is about do we look at any M&A possibilities, well, the honest answer is that we always do, but we cannot disclose those things. I mean, one thing which you know, we are in a process of at least selling Armenia, and there was a news about that, so there's a process. There's regulated approvals, which are still pending. That's one thing which I can comment on.

But in general, in all our capital markets day, we showed that returns on the invested capital in majority of our markets are actually significantly above weighted average cost of capital. So if anything, what we're looking at is that where and how can we enhance those returns rather than optimizing the sense of trimming down anything. That's not the agenda.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

So why don't we try a phone call question now?

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Ivan Kim from Xtellus Capital. Please ask your question.

Ivan Kim -- Xtellus Capital Partners -- Analyst

Hi. I have a couple of questions, please. Firstly, for how long capex will have to stay high in Russia? So if you could give us some color on what happens beyond 2020? And also, what's the Yarovaya capex in 2020, please? Secondly, your above EBITDA cost in Russia, if we exclude all the one-offs, went down about 10% in the fourth quarter. So I'm just wondering what's being cut so aggressively.

That's question No. 2. And then question No. 3, I understand it might be very hard to comment on that, but any color you can give on the mobile service revenue expectations for Russia in 2020 would be very helpful because I think you previously said that you expect the turnaround to happen about midyear.

So we should see some better numbers in the second-half '20. Is that still the case? And should we assume kind of flattish service revenue or further revenue losses? Thank you.

Kaan Terzioglu -- Chief Operating Officer

Yes. So Ivan, with less than 40% penetration of LTE in our customer base, it clearly shows that we are still in the ramping-up phase of deployment of LTE networks in Russia, so you should expect this trend to continue until we hit 70% on that metric. And it's going to probably take over 18 months or so to reach that position. When I look to our trending upwards, you will see, earliest Q4, us getting positive trend in terms of showing mid-single-digit growth year on year in Russia in service revenues, but of course it will not bring the total year to a positive trend.

We will still be low single-digit decline for the entire of the year this year.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Then a question on capex.

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Well, I mean, capex is concurrent to what Kaan said. I mean, if we need to invest more, we will, of course, do. We have a program. As Kaan said, it's probably going to last for about 18 months, so there will be a tail maybe in 2021.

Now in terms of the Yarovaya you asked, the 2020 will be the last year of the Yarovaya. So clearly, you are looking then for 2021, the capex intensity to decline. However, what we gave the guidance in terms of 21%, 22% vis-à-vis 19.6%, this is like-for-like because, clearly, there was, in '19, an element where we invested into Yarovaya as well.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

I think we've got all your questions. We have two more on the call. So why don't we get through -- we have two more on the call. Why don't I get through one more of those, and then we'll come back to the room?

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Rahul Bhat from JP.Morgan. Please ask your question.

Rahul Bhat -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Hi guys. Thank you very much for the call. Can I just ask on your debt refinancing plans? It seems like you got around $3.7 billion of debt coming due in the next two years. How much of that are you looking to refinance, or are you thinking of paying that down and using uncommitted facilities? And the second one is in terms of the mix of your debt? Now post derivatives, still you've got like around 50% of debt in rubles.

Is that the right mix that you're looking at, or do you want to raise more local currency debt and reduce dollar debt further? Thank you.

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Well, the reduction of the dollar debt generally would be the purpose, of course. The question is that, ideally, what we would like to do is to swap the debt into the other currencies, the ruble. If you recall, 43% of our EBITDA comes from Russia, so clearly, having 47% of the gross debt exposure to ruble is actually matching that exposure quite well. Question becomes what is the possibility, really, to swap or raise the debt locally, and in many countries, this is just not feasible.

In terms of refinancing or retiring the debt, I would say refinancing will be the priority, but we cannot give you, of course, any guidance in terms of how and when it's going to happen, but refinancing will be the routes which we'll be looking through.

Rahul Bhat -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Thank you.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Thank you. In the room? If not, we have one more on the phone. Why don't we take that and be ready in the room for the next question? Operator?

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Igor Goncharov from Gazprombank. Please ask your question.

Igor Goncharov -- Gazprombak -- Analyst

Yes. Thank you very much. I have three questions. One is in relation to your decision to pay dividends once a year.

Could you please clarify what's the thinking behind that? Because, I mean, if we look at your peers in Russia, they're clearly paying twice a year, and this looks like something that may reduce the appeal of the stock to the investors. That's number one. Number two, a year ago, at a similar call, you were providing guidance that you would expect running a sustainable running rate of the free cash flow pre-licenses at about $800 per year. Does this guidance still hold? Is this something that you still expect going forward? And question number three, looking at your chart to the Slide No.

31, when you kind of show the license spending at about $300 a year, this year, could you give us some indications of what would be the sustainable average level of license spending going forward each year? Thank you.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Alex, first on to the one...

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Yeah. I mean, the question about the dividend paid once. I mean never say never. So I think that what we are just saying is that for this year, there will be one payment.

That's the decision of the board. And as you know, the dividends are a prerogative of the board decision, so come next February or March, board can make a different decision. So I would probably stop there. Secondly, the second way of answering the same question is that because you mentioned there, does that decrease the appeal for the stock? Let me put it this way.

Did the 12% yield increase the appeal of the stock? Maybe that's another way of looking at it. I'm not saying that we will be reducing the dividend going forward, but this is also the way how we can say that we need flexibility. We want to grow, and I think growth is the main thing, which hopefully all of you are looking from us to deliver. Second question was on -- Page 31.

Yes, licenses.

Igor Goncharov -- Gazprombak -- Analyst

On the sustainable free cash flow in the future, a year ago, you were showing the level of approximately $800 million a year, pre-license?

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Well, yes, correct. We don't guide anymore on that metric. And by the way, if you recall, that one was based on the FX rates, which were fixed in February 2019. But if I go back also on your question about the licenses, I mean the $300 million, which we put there on the chart is basically $225 million which is a deposit, which we had to put against the pending court case for the license in Pakistan.

If you remember, the outstanding number was $450 million, and we had to deposit $225 million in order to then challenge the decision in the court, so that includes that number. So the run rate, if you wish, more normalized rate of what we usually pay for the frequencies for the licenses, without any license renewals, tend to be somewhere between $75 million to $100 million a year.

Igor Goncharov -- Gazprombak -- Analyst

But thankfully, I mean, the license renewals, you cannot avoid those. Or what should be put in the numbers going forward, approximately, in the annual spending?

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Yes. Igor, that's why we said that we would -- when we looked at our dividend policy, that's why we linked it to the equity free cash flows after licenses because indeed, without licenses, we cannot conduct the business, so that's a natural part of what we would be paying for to continue being a going concern. In terms of the renewals, you could probably look through any kind of disclosures and see where the next renewals are coming from. I don't think there's much of a secret of that.

However, in terms of the timing of those payments, that's where the difficulty lies. As we said, for instance, the Pakistan license on Warid, which is the one which has been now disputed in the courts has been due to renew in May of last year, and it actually is still not settled. So it's difficult for us to give you a better guidance on those numbers.

Kaan Terzioglu -- Chief Operating Officer

Maybe I want to answer a question which is not asked.

Igor Goncharov -- Gazprombak -- Analyst

Just one clarification. If we set apart the Pakistan story with regards to 2020 only, what kind of payments, significant payments, you expect this year apart from Pakistan?

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Are you talking about the license payments?

Igor Goncharov -- Gazprombak -- Analyst

Yes, yes, after you've made license...

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

I don't recall we have any other significant payments due in 2020.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Nor do I. So at least we don't recall.

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

There's none.

Kaan Terzioglu -- Chief Operating Officer

So an answer which is not asked yet, but I want to share with you considering the interest in Russian market. You have felt the confidence in our business in Russia, but I would like to explain why I am also bullish in Russia overall. The regulatory environment changing in Russia, putting more data sovereignty principles is actually a very positive thing, I believe, for the local development of the digital economy. If you look back 10 years ago and compare a market like India and China and compare the impact of data sovereignty in the Indian digital marketplace in terms of development of new enterprises, new investments and development of the overall economy, it has been phenomenal.

Well, India still stays as a software maintenance hub. Actually, China is a digital economy tycoon. And I believe the actions taken in Russia in terms of data sovereignty, Russia's data, staying in data, being processed by Russian technology companies, gives us as a telecom operator, unique opportunities. It's up to us to grasp them.

And I think this is one area that I would like you to keep in mind looking to the Russian technology and telecoms market.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Thank you for that. We have another question on the line from Bank of America. Let me take that one, and then we can take the in-the-room question.

Operator

Your question comes from line of [Inaudible]. Please ask your question.

Unknown speaker

You've just recently canceled unlimited data plans in Russia in the beginning of February. What would the incremental impact it might have on the path toward returning some revenue growth. And the second one is, can you please update us on the $300 million option for the future business stake in Pakistan and if its implementation might also potentially impact your dividend decisions? Thank you.

Kaan Terzioglu -- Chief Operating Officer

OK. With regard to the unlimited plans, as you know, we have repriced them. Actually, we have physically taken them off the market. They are only available based on special request, and actually, they are priced in the right and fair way moving onwards.

Overall, in Russia, if you look to the market, I would expect a normalization and increase of the prices, and this has already taken place by all the movements of the players, considering the higher costs of Yarovaya type of projects. So I think pricing normalization is in place and elimination of the unlimited on differentiated tariffs is also going away.

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Now with regard to the option price, I mean, it's actually disclosed. The carrying value of that price is about $340 million. We have no visibility on the actions of our minority shareholder in Pakistan. We actually have good relations with them.

So we are, of course, evaluating the pros and cons of that option, which indeed comes due sometime in the middle of the summer, but we have no other comments to make at the moment. But indeed, as it's a discretionary spend potentially and may not be triggered even by us, that clearly keeps us -- so to say, keeps additional --so to say, gives us additional cushion to keep it in mind when we're thinking about the dividend policy and the payouts this year.

Unknown speaker

Thanks. Just had three questions. One follow-up on the unlimited plans in Russia. You mentioned that you are repricing.

Just wanted to clarify, are you repricing the archived tariffs as well? And with regards to closing tariffs, they're close to new customers taking the tariff. I just wanted to check whether I understand it correctly.

Kaan Terzioglu -- Chief Operating Officer

We have a phased execution of repricing the existing tariffs as well. In the first phase, about one-third of our customers will be impacted and it will be a second phase later on coming around April.

Unknown speaker

Thanks. And two questions. One is on one of your frontier markets, Bangladesh, whether you see opportunity increasing there with the difficulties of the larger player, which is why that is having -- was they all related to the taxes? Yes. So the second question is on Bangladesh, whether you see any change in opportunities as the larger players having difficulties.

And third question is on JazzCash, if you could share some financial metrics, maybe contributing to revenue or which transactions are the most popular or transaction mix, any...

Sergi Herrero -- Chief Operating Officer

So on Bangladesh, we are really bullish, not because our competitors are facing headwinds, it's because of the market. If you look at the numbers, it's one of the biggest and growing markets when it comes to your population, so smartphone penetration is escalating. We see opportunities in connectivity, but we see a lot of opportunities outside connectivity. And that's how we are approaching it.

I think that government, it's been quite open in that regard. And it's building on what Kaan said. It's one of these countries that we believe that data has to reside in the country, and we are well prepared to serve that opportunity. Going back to Pakistan and JazzCash, we don't talk and, quite honestly, I don't focus on the contribution yet of the users.

We are focusing on growing, and that's where we spend most of the time. As we said, it's closing the 8 million wallets at this point, which is a very nice organic growth, I would say. We are planning this year to accelerate and double down on this growth. And that's how we see this type of products.

It's a wallet product. So basically, it's B2B, bill payment and even micro loan, which is something that we are very proud with the top transactions in terms of volume. We're going to expand beyond that. I think this is just the way to provide immediate value to customers, but based on what we have also on Jazz, we see a lot of products on the financial ecosystem to provide to our users in the near future.

So we're going to expand it.

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

But it's interesting. Sergi said that we don't focus on the financial metrics, yes, but we focus on growing. This is something that this split allows us to do, even though Kaan is very experienced in this area as well. In the telco provider, in general, they focus on financial metrics very early, and they don't always look as great as you would want them to, and you make some really bad short-term decisions when you do that.

So we have been thought not only by Sergi and Kaan, but also by our board that we have the absolute digital experts on our board, who say basically focus on growth, grabbing share of the users and share of the population, and then perfect your engine. And that's the way that's the way that these businesses outside of telco operate and, yes, we're going to keep looking at. I think we're down to the last question. Do we have anything on the -- good.

No more questions. If there is, I can take one more in the room, but if not, well done. Thank you very much for asking us. Good.

Thank you.

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Thank you.

Sergi Herrero -- Chief Operating Officer

Thank you.

Kaan Terzioglu -- Chief Operating Officer

Thank you.

Duration: 80 minutes

Call participants:

Nik Kershaw

Ursula Burns -- Chief Executive Officer and Chairman

Alex Kazbegi -- Chief Strategy Officer

Kaan Terzioglu -- Chief Operating Officer

Sergi Herrero -- Chief Operating Officer

Alexander Vassiouk -- Prosperity Capital Management -- Analyst

Unknown speaker

Alexander Vengranovich -- Prosperity Capital Management -- Analyst

Dilya Ibragimova -- Citi -- Analyst

Ivan Kim -- Xtellus Capital Partners -- Analyst

Rahul Bhat -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Igor Goncharov -- Gazprombak -- Analyst

More VEON analysis

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