x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

New man at Etisalat as firm feels the pace

Management reshuffle at Etisalat comes at time of tough competition in the telecoms operator's domestic market

Etisalat has appointed a new chief executive for its UAE operations at a time of intense competitive pressure in its domestic market.

In the latest management reshuffle at the telecommunications company, Etisalat said it had appointed Saleh Al Abdooli as the head of its UAE operations.

Mr Al Abdooli replaces Nasser bin Obood, the acting chief executive. Etisalat - the region's largest telecoms operator by market value - said Mr bin Obood would be appointed to a "new leadership role".

Mr Al Abdooli was previously the chief executive of Etisalat Misr, the firm's Egyptian unit. He has been replaced there by Saeed Al Hamli, who worked as the chief executive of Etisalat Afghanistan from 2007 until last year.

The management changes come at a time of tough competition for Etisalat in the UAE market, and upheaval in some of its international operations.

Etisalat's rival du, which launched commercial services in 2007, has rapidly built its market share in the lucrative mobile-phone sector. It is now approaching parity with the bigger operator in terms of mobile subscribers.

Etisalat operates in 18 countries, but its international expansion was set back last year due to the failure of its US$12 billion (Dh44.07bn) bid for a controlling stake in the Kuwaiti operator Zain. It has also faced legal issues in India.

In a sign Etisalat is planning to release cash, it has also emerged that the operator is hoping to raise up to $600 million by selling off up to 5,000 mobile-phone towers in Africa and has hired Standard Chartered to advise on the process, according to Zawya Dow Jones.

Etisalat did not respond to a request for comment.

A potential buyer of some of Etisalat's towers is IHS, an African telecoms infrastructure company that has been in discussions with various Middle East operators about purchasing mobile towers.

An IHS executive said last year Middle East telecomms companies could raise as much as $20bn by selling their mobile-phone towers, and then leasing them back.

IHS said it was in talks with three Middle East operators about buying their towers.

The company,which is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and reported turnover of $114m in 2010, did not respond to a request for comment.

bflanagan@thenational.ae

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