x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Etisalat sheds Dh7bn of value as investors back off

More than Dh7 billion has been wiped off the market value of Etisalat in a month as investors retreat from the UAE's biggest telecommunications operator.

More than Dh7 billion (US$1.9bn) has been wiped off the market value of Etisalat in a month as investors retreat from the UAE's biggest telecommunications operator.

Etisalat's shares have fallen 9.2 per cent this month. They declined in nine of the past 11 weeks and lost 2 per cent yesterday to close at Dh8.91, their lowest price since February 2009.

The slide has hammered investors in the UAE's biggest listed company. Those who picked up the stock as a buy-and-hold investment had not seen an improvement in the price and were selling to reduce debt, said a banker who asked not to be named.

"Retail buyers are getting tired," he said.

The share price slide at Etisalat has not resulted in gains for du, its telecoms rival, with the price of the Dubai company's shares unchanged this month.

Du, the smaller and younger company, has been taking domestic market share from Etisalat and is set to increase competition as the long-awaited portability of mobile phone numbers and infrastructure sharing are implemented.

Etisalat's decline has helped to drag down the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange General Index, which has fallen 4.1 per cent this month.

Many local investors who borrowed heavily to fund share purchases are losing out amid a prolonged decline on the exchange.

Etisalat has faced heavy competition from du in its home market and has suffered a number of high-profile setbacks abroad, most notably in India, where the company became ensnared in a corruption scandal.

Etisalat's efforts to turn its fortunes around have included appointing a new chief executive, Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar, and a new chief financial officer with a background in mergers and acquisitions.

Although analysts have given the new management good initial reviews, the company's profitability is expected to remain subdued.

"We are of the opinion that both revenue and profitability from UAE are likely to remain under pressure," analysts at Global Investment House wrote in a research note.

ghunter@thenational.ae

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