Evolution of Risk in 2019
Key events in 2019 have had a significant impact on the risk profile of the Group – in particular, inorganic strategy, financial structure, and growth. However, many of these changes are due to the successful execution of Millicom’s operational strategy and investor proposition plan.
The company started the year with the re-listing of its shares on the NASDAQ Stock Market in the U.S. Many activities were undertaken in 2018 to ensure that governance structures are fully compliant with the relevant rules and regulations. In 2019 significant focus was placed on improvements in the control environment (including fulfillment of requirements under the Sarbanes Oxley Act).
In Q1 Millicom announced the agreement to acquire mobile businesses in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, and the sale of its business in Chad. The portfolio of businesses has therefore continued its shift toward Latin America and in particular increased its exposure to Central America. The ability to successfully merge and integrate the acquired businesses is a key opportunity and challenge, which will continue in 2020.
Political and economic stability are key determining factors in the ability of our businesses to grow and continue to be successful. While the underlying currencies in which we generate revenue remained relatively stable in 2019, political and civil unrest in some of the Central American countries continued to impact some of our businesses. In addition, toward the end of the year, civil unrest following elections in Bolivia caused instability in the country and temporary disruption to our business.
International sanctions and restrictions placed on certain suppliers of devices and equipment were a key focus of risk management activities during the year. A full assessment of the possible outcomes and implications for our business was performed, with contingency plans formulated. This risk will continue to be monitored closely in 2020 as global discussions on national security and communications continue. Information and network access security, including protection of customer data and cyber security in general, continue to increase in importance for all consumer-based businesses. We continued to invest in this area (detailed on page 97 and 98 in the Governance section) in 2019.
Our senior leadership team remained largely unchanged during 2019, a key enabler in executing on our strategy and driving both short-term and longer-term initiatives, including those on leadership, culture and succession planning.
While we manage and monitor many more risks within the Millicom risk universe, we have highlighted below the areas of risk that were a key focus in 2019.