Operator profits stabilise as recession continues
Gulf telecom operators are bouncing back from the decline in growth experienced at the end of 2008. A spate of results reports has seen most operators report either stabilisation of profits or an increase as the market settles in to the global financial crisis. Qtel in Qatar has reported profits of QR604.4m (US£166m) for the first quarter, up on profits of QR446m (US$122m) on the previous quarter. However, that figure is still down on the third quarter of 2008, which was before the crisis began to bite.
Batelco in Bahrain has also reported an improvement. First quarter profits were BD26.3m (US$69.8m) - a small improvement on the previous quarter yet still well below the company's third quarter 2008 profit of BD78.3m (US$207.7m).
UAE incumbent Etisalat reported a net profit of AED2.178 billion (US$593 million) for the quarter which represented a rise on the previous quarter during which it showed profit of AED1.4bn (US$381.1m). The latest quarter's results are almost flat when compared to the third quarter of 2008.
This stabilisation, although disappointing when compared to previous expectations, does at least demonstrate that decline is slowing. Matthew Reed, senior analyst, Middle East and Africa at Informa Telecoms and Media, has reported that the number of new mobile subscribers at Etisalat in the quarter was 41,000, the lowest quarterly net addition of subscribers for the operator in a decade. The typical number is 200,000 new subscribers in a quarter. "On the other hand, even in these times, they have managed to grow subscriber numbers," he commented.