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Etisalat earnings decline as it loses mobile customers

The telecom's revenues and net profits fall short of analyst expectations.

Etisalat says it has lost mobile subscribers and has posted revenues and net profits that are short of analyst expectations. In a filing to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, the UAE's largest telecommunications operator reported a net profit of Dh1.99 billion (US$541.8 million) in the first quarter of this year on revenues of Dh7.94bn. In the first quarter of last year, it posted a net profit of Dh2.17bn.

Etisalat said it had 7.71 million mobile subscribers, slightly down from the previous three months where it reported 7.74 million. The company also lost 10,000 fixed-line subscribers, but added 50,000 internet users in its domestic market. Simon Simonian, a telecoms analyst with Shuaa Capital, expected Etisalat to report Dh7.51bn in revenues and Dh2.1bn in net profit. But Etisalat said its revenues for the latest period were up 5 per cent, or Dh379m, compared with the same quarter last year.

The company is expected to report detailed figures on Wednesday. The country's second-largest telecoms operator, du, is expected to report its first-quarter figures within weeks. In a research note this month, Mr Simonian said Etisalat's bottom line in the latest quarter would be boosted by the absence of start-up costs related to the launch of its Indian subsidiary. The company recently started a mobile service in India under the Cheers Mobile brand and is participating in the country's auction of its 3G wireless spectrum after submitting a deposit of 4.27 billion rupees (Dh352.2m).

"We are expecting flat year-over-year revenue and [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation] for UAE operations," Mr Simonian said. dgeorgecosh@thenational.ae

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