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Fri 27 Apr 2012 09:38 AM

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Bahrain's Batelco posts 8% fall in Q1 profit

Telecom operator also sees its subscriber base shrink during the first quarter of 2012

Bahrain's Batelco posts 8% fall in Q1 profit
A South Korea shop manager shows Samsung Electronics Galaxy S mobile phone (R) and Apples iPhone 3G at a shop in Seoul

Bahrain Telecommunications Co (Batelco) has reported an 8 percent fall in first-quarter profit, its seventh decline in eight quarters as its subscriber base shrunk and it took a loss on its Yemeni unit.

Batelco, which is majority government-owned, made a profit of BD16.1m in the three months to March 31, down from BD17.5m in the year-earlier period, it said in an emailed statement.

Two analysts polled by Reuters forecast Batelco would make a quarterly profit of between BD19.3-20m.

Quarterly revenue was BD78m, down 4 percent from the corresponding period of 2011.

"Our results for the quarter reflected the continued impact of significant competition in Bahrain and in the highly competitive environments across the MENA markets in which we operate," Sheikh Hamad Al Khalifa, Batelco chairman, said in the statement.

The firm owns Jordanian telecoms operator Umniah, 27 percent of Yemeni mobile operator Sabafon, minority stakes in internet providers in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and is also active in Egypt.

Sabafon, which claims to have been the victim of a deadly government vendetta, posted a 6 percent drop in subscribers. Batelco took a write-off of BD2m on the Yemeni affiliate in the first quarter.

Batelco's total subscriber base fell to 6.9 million from 11 million in the fourth-quarter of 2011, which it said was mainly due it excluding Indian affiliate S Tel.

In February, Batelco opted to sell back its 43 percent stake in S Tel to its Indian partner for $175 million after India's Supreme Court ordered licences held by eight operators including S Tel to be revoked amid a 2G telecoms scandal.

Excluding S Tel, Batelco's subscriber numbers were down 2 percent from a year ago.

Batelco's home mobile subscriber base fell 1 percent, giving it a market share of 44 percent, while fixed broadband subscribers dropped 21 percent, which it blamed on customers switching to mobile broadband.

The firm's cash and bank balances fell 6 percent year-on-year to BD61.8m after Jordanian unit Umniah paid $70m for a 3G licence in January.

Batelco aims to make at least one acquisition in 2012 to offset falling domestic revenue, its chief executive told Reuters this month.

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