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Tue 16 Oct 2007 01:41 AM

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Etisalat profits up 14% on mobile expansion

Arab teleco reports 30% revenue increase as it continues to add mobile customers in UAE.

Emirates Telecommunications (Etisalat), the third-largest Arab telecom firm by market value, reported a 14% rise in third-quarter profit on Monday as it continued to add mobile customers in the United Arab Emirates.

Etisalat, which has operations extending from Pakistan to Nigeria, made 1.8 billion dirhams ($490.2 million) in the three months to September 30, Reuters calculated from nine-month data the company released.

Analysts' forecasts in a Reuters survey last month ranged from 1.95 billion dirhams to 1.96 billion dirhams.

The company did not give quarterly data, saying only that net income in the nine months to September 30 rose to 5.53 billion dirhams from 4.39 billion dirhams in the same period last year.

On September 30 Etisalat had 6.2 million mobile phone customers in the UAE compared with 5.99 million at the end of the second quarter. The increase of about 210,000 users was the same as in the three months to June 30, the first full quarter of domestic competition.

Etisalat lost its domestic mobile phone monopoly to du this year.

Etisalat's domestic market is the main driver of growth and mobile phone users in the country of about 4 million people account for more than 60% of revenue.

Revenue in the nine-month period grew 30% to 15.38 billion dirhams, Etisalat said in the statement.

Capital expenditure was 2.28 billion dirhams, it said, without giving a comparative figure.

Last month, Etisalat said plans to allow foreigners to buy its shares were on track even after UAE stocks courting foreign investors tumbled in a global sell-off.

Etisalat, which manages Pakistan Telecommunications and has a 26% stake in it, said last month it was planning to reduce PTCL's workforce after it reported a 25% drop in profit in the year to June 30.

It has expressed interest in raising its stake in Pakistan Telecom to 51%.

As part of its expansion abroad, Etisalat last month became one of a dozen companies bidding for Qatar's second mobile phone licence.

Etisalat said in September it had bought a 40% stake in a new Nigerian telephone operator from Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Development Co.

Etisalat led a group that started Egypt's third mobile phone operator in May. It also owns a majority stake in sub-Saharan African operator Atlantique Telecom. In April, it launched a GSM service in Afghanistan.

Etisalat holds a minority stake in Etihad Etisalat in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

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