By David Ingham
New chairman, Dr. Mohammed Khalfan Bin Kharbash, promises to be innovative, competitive on price, and to continue to drive shareholder value.
Etisalat has made its first formal response to the news that it will lose its monopoly over telecommunications services in the UAE.
In a statement, Dr. Mohammed Khalfan Bin Kharbash, UAE Finance Minister and the new chairman of Etisalat, welcomed competition, pledged to put the customer first and looked forward to expanding Etisalat’s activities outside the UAE.
“Etisalat will soon embark on the next phase of the corporation’s development, including adopting a new style of conducting business, marketing innovation and cutting edge customer service,” said Bin Kharbash. “The focus will be on the customer — the engine of our future growth.”
Competition, he said, will bring more choice to customers. “Experience around the world shows that open markets work to everyone’s advantage. We therefore see deregulation of the telecom market as an opportunity for Etisalat to further strengthen its position.”
Bin Kharbash hinted that Etisalat will use its economies of scale to drive down prices and that it would innovate by offering new services and product bundles.
The planned adoption of a converged network for voice, video and data in 2005 will, he said, “revolutionise the way our customers live and work.” The Minister of Finance also spoke of sharpening Etisalat’s focus on the corporate market, and small and medium businesses in particular.
Bin Kharbash was clear that Etisalat will be looking to add to its stakes in Thuraya, a satellite telecomms provider, and Qtel. “We will strategically continue to look for further investment opportunities in new markets to build shareholder value.”
Addressing shareholders directly, Etisalat's chairman reassured them that the company would do its utmost to maintain its $11-12 billion market capitalisation. “The share price will continue to reflect Etisalat’s fundamental strengths as a blue chip stock and a company that has some of the highest standards for infrastructure and telecom engineering in the world,” he said.
Etisalat’s customer base currently includes 1.1 million fixed lines, three million mobile users and around 300,000 internet account holders.