Etisalat plans to pay Dh4.3 billion (US$1.17bn) of dividends to shareholders as it prepares to spend billions of dollars on acquisitions across the region. The board of the UAE's largest telecommunications company recommended a dividend of 60 fils a share for the 2009 financial year, unchanged from a year earlier. The company also plans to issue bonus shares to all shareholders at a rate of one share for every 10 owned. In previous years, the company distributed two shares for every 10.
Last year, the board recommended the same one-for-10 bonus issue as this year, but shareholders voted down the recommendation at Etisalat's annual meeting. This year's meeting is scheduled for March 23. At the end of last month, Etisalat announced income of Dh8.84bn for last year, an increase of 3.6 per cent on 2008, but less than analysts expected. The company's UAE rival, du, announced that it would report last year's annual results tomorrow.
While Etisalat's dividend per share has remained flat, long-term shareholders have been rewarded each year since 2005 through bonus shares. Mohammed Omran, the chairman of Etisalat, said the company could be in for a big-spending year as it was looking at multibillion-dollar investments in six regional markets including Algeria, Libya and Iraq. It also hoped to increase its stake in Axiata, the Malaysian mobile operator.
Etisalat expects the acquisitions, and operations in growth markets such as Nigeria, Egypt and India, will help it to double its international revenue in the next three years and account for 20 per cent of total revenue. Last week, Mr Omran said Etisalat would consider acquiring the Algerian assets of Egypt's Orascom Telecom. * with Bloomberg @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org