Reporting season roundup: Middle East players see mixed fortunes

Reporting season roundup: Middle East players see mixed fortunes

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Key Q1 financial reports from the region's major players

Etisalat: record results from hybrid scenario

Hatem Dowidar, CEO of Etisalat Group praised the group's gains over Q1, saying that the company generated "record results in the new hybrid scenario".

Specifically, Etisalat's consolidated revenues for the first quarter amounted to AED13.2 billion, representing an increase of 0.8% year over year and 1.2% quarter over quarter.

Consolidated net profit after Federal Royalty amounted to AED2.3 billion, representing a 7.9% increase year over year and 14.7% quarter over quarter, resulting in a net profit margin of 18%.

The aggregate subscriber base reached 156 million, which represented a year over year increase of 4%. The increases were due to subscriber growth in Saudi Arabia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Chad, Benin, Mauritania and Togo. Quarter over quarter, the subscriber base increased by 1%

Statement from Hatem Dowidar, CEO of Etisalat Group: "The company generated record results in the new hybrid scenario helping consumers adapt to a new work-and-learn-from-anywhere reality while continuing to deliver innovative services subscribers require and demand.

"Our teams rallied to support our customers with technology playing a central role in keeping our society, economy and lives connected. Digital evolution is the future where telecom operators are the key players to enable the transition and be the exemplary adopters of digital transformation," he added.

In response, Etisalat will continue with its own digitalisation by investing in future technologies, generating new revenue streams and "by acquiring and disseminating digital capabilities across its markets", Dowidar said.

Elsewhere in the results, consolidated EBITDA for the first quarter amounted to AED 6.8 billion, representing an increase of 0.7% year over year and 7.4% quarter over quarter, resulting in EBITDA margin of 51%, stable compared to prior year.

Consolidated capital spending remained flat at AED 1.1 billion, representing 8% of the consolidated revenues; and consolidated free cash flow amounted to AED 5.7 billion, representing a 0.9% increase year over year.

Among its achievements for the quarter, Etisalat Misr partnered with Huawei to complete its first VoLTE call using Huawei’s Virtual IMS; and in the UAE, Etisalat collaborated with Smart Dubai to provide cyber security services to Dubai government entities.

Further, in its pursuit of Open RAN, Etisalat partnered with Rakuten to accelerate its adoption and also partnered with Cisco to build the region’s first open and autonomous and secured network.


Ooredoo: FX impacts and Myanmar politics weigh on revenues

Ooredoo Group saw a marginal revenue decline of 1% due to negative foreign exchange impact. Excluding this and "despite the Covid-19 pandemic", growth in Qatar and in Indonesia saw revenues increase by 1%. 

Group net profit attributable to Ooredoo shareholders decreased by 50% year-on-year to QAR 193 million in Q1 2021, again due to FX impact from Myanmar with an FX Loss in Q1 2021 versus an FX Gain in Q1 2020. Excluding the FX impact the net profit increased by 120%.

Data revenues account for more than 55% of total revenue driven by data leadership and digital transformation initiatives across the group's operations.

The potential merger of Ooredoo's Indonesia business with CK Hutchison's is still on the cards, with the MoU extended to 30 June. On this, the firm said: "This extension will provide more time to complete the ongoing due diligence and negotiate the final terms of a possible combination of the entities". Further, chairman ­Sheikh Faisal Bin Thani Al Thani said the firm made "good progress" in transitioning to its asset light model following the recent sale of 4,200 towers to Digital Colony.

­HE Sheikh Faisal Bin Thani Al Thani, chairman of Ooredoo, said: “Ooredoo Group delivered a robust set of results during the first quarter of 2021 despite challenging market conditions across many of our territories. We remained focused on our digital transformation agenda which has enabled us to create value for our customers by offering a seamless and convenient user experience as well as optimise our cost base by streamlining and automating processes."

Market by market, Ooredoo Qatar saw revenue growth of 0.6% year-on-year to QAR 1.8 billion, with total customer numbers now at three million. In Oman, competition in the pre-paid segment and the pandemic pushed revenues down 4% to QAR610 million, while the customer base increased by 2% to reach 2.9 million in Q1 2021. A "softening macroeconomic environment" in Kuwait saw revenues decline 8% to QAR607 million and a customer base of 2.4 million, down 100,000 on last year.

In Iraq the 17% devaluation of the Dinar saw Asiacell revenues drop from QAR1 billion in Q1 last year to QAR852 million this year with the customer base down 100,000.

The political situation in Myanmar contributed to a profit decline of 11% year on year, with revenues at of QAR252 million during the first quarter of 2021. However, things fared much better in Indonesia where Indosat Ooredoo’s revenue increased by 13% to QAR1.9 billion compared to the same period last year. Growth was driven by the strong performance in cellular revenues supported by a rebound in the enterprise business.

Ooredoo Algeria saw revenues increase 2% and an EBITDA margin of 34% has been maintained. Ooredoo Tunisia reported revenues of QAR394 million in Q1 2021, an increase of 3% compared to the same period in the previous year supported by favourable FX trends, however a change in how mobile subscriber data is analysed saw the customer base decline by 2.3 million.

On this, the company said: "Ooredoo Tunisia changed the reporting of its prepaid customer’s base from the original life-cycle definition to the 90 days network activity definition, to align with the standard reporting methodology used in Tunisia. As a result, Ooredoo Tunisia’s reported customer base declined by approximately 2.3 million to 6.9 million customers in Q1 2021. There is no impact on the reported financials."


du: finance arranged after profits drop

Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du) reported a net profit of AED 257 million during Q1, compared with AED 355 million in the same period last year.

It marked a decline of 27.6%, however, net profit for the January-March period more than quadrupled against Q4 2020, on the back of an improving economy, the operator said.

Announcing du's financial results last month, acting CEO Fahad Al Hassawi, said: “The end of Q1 marks the end of a full year of Covid-19. During Q1 2021, we continued seeing additional signs of gradual recovery in our general macro-environment. The COVID-19 vaccination campaign is hitting its stride with over 10 million vaccine doses administered to the nation’s residents. Mobility is increasing with the hospitality sector opening up, international tourism improving and people adapting their lives to Covid-19 situation. Telecommunication needs remains a key component of everyone’s life."

In a regulatory filing, du confirmed that it had secured long-term financing worth more than US$1 billion (AED 3.769 billion) for infrastructure deployment and "general corporate purposes".

The funds have been provided by "a group of banks", although the institutions were not named in the filing.

The financing is comprised of two parts: a AED 1.981 billion equivalent five-year revolving credit facility and AED 1.788 seven-year term loan facility, du confirmed in its statement.


Zain: pandemic and currency devaluations hit Q1 performance

Consolidated revenue was down 6% year-on-year to 382 million Kuwaiti dinars, the equivalent of US$1.3 billion. Ebitda was down 7% to $623 million — a margin of 41%. And net income for the quarter was $147 million, down 5%.

However, Zain pointed out net income grew operationally by 4% for the quarter when excluding the one-time gain from the sale and lease back of towers in Kuwait in the first quarter of last year.

Ahmed Al Tahous, chairman of the board of directors, said: “The board and executive management have been focused on minimising the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and significant currency devaluations in Iraq and Sudan on the business.”

He added: “We are dedicated to ensuring our mobile networks are operating at optimal levels and providing meaningful connectivity to the communities we serve.”

The company noted that foreign currency translation was impacted mainly due to the devaluation in Sudan at the end of February, and a 19% currency devaluation in Iraq. This cost the Zain group $177 million in revenue and $66 million in Ebitda.

The group also pointed to “the widespread disruption in economic and social activity caused by Covid-19.

Vice-chairman and group CEO Bader Nasser Al-Kharafi commented: “Our culture of innovation has been invaluable at this time of rapid change, and our business continuity strategy has been executed impressively to counter these factors.”

He added: “ Both Zain Iraq and Zain Sudan have recently taken measures in dealing with currency devaluations by revamping prices and offering new attractive data monetization packages.”

Al-Kharafi continued: “Given the limitations on mobility, locally and travel abroad, we have continued to play a key role in keeping people socially distanced while remaining connected and productive during the current learning and working from home environment.”


Batelco: net profit down

Batelco saw net profit increase 6% of the quarter, at BD19.7M (US$52.3M) up from BD18.5M (US$49.1M) for Q1 last year.

Total comprehensive income attributable to equity holders increased 151% reaching BD29.9M (US$79.3M), from BD11.9M (US$31.6M).

Revenues for the first quarter stood at BD99.7M (US$264.5M) an increase of 2% compared to BD97.6M (US$258.9M) in Q1 2020.  The increase in revenues is mainly due to year on year increases in fixed broadband, adjacent services and wholesale revenues of 19%, 17% and 8% respectively.

Similarly, operating profit for the quarter increased 4% to BD25.4M (US$67.4M) from BD24.5M (US$65.0M) in Q1 2020. EBITDA for the stood at BD43.8M (US$116.2M) compared to BD41.6M (US$110.3M), an increase of 5% with a healthy EBITDA margin of 44%.

Chairman Shaikh Abdulla bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, said: "The positive start to the year is the result of Batelco’s strategic direction to enhance its core business with a focus on connectivity and growing ICT services, while effectively managing costs.

“I and my colleagues on the Board appreciate the commitment of Batelco’s management and team members for keeping the momentum high and achieving the desired results in line with Batelco’s business plans for the year.”

“Meeting our shareholders’ expectations is a priority and we will remain focussed on maximizing shareholder value in line with what we have achieved in 2020. We have started 2021 on a strong note and over the coming months, we will continue to build on this positive trend."

stc: total revenues up 12.63%, wholesale revenues up 5.1%

Revenues for Q1 reached SR15,695 million with an increase of 12.63% compared to the corresponding quarter last year. Gross Profit reached to SR8,557 million with an increase of 4.4% compared to the corresponding quarter last year.

Olayan Mohammed Alwetaid, stc Group CEO, stated that the company’s results for this quarter as compared to the comparable quarter last year were "distinct". The company was able to grow its top line by 12.6%, supported by the increase witnessed in consumer business unite revenues due to the growth in the broadband and Fixed Wireless Access subscriber base by 10.1%, FTTH by 26%, working lines by 3.1% and data revenue by 4.5%.

Further, Enterprise Business Unite revenues also grew by 33.4%, as a result of the increased demand for the company's services & products along with its ability to swiftly respond to customers’ request and demand in a competitive manner. As for Wholesale Sector, it managed to increase its revenues by 5.1%. Moreover, the revenues generated by stc’s subsidiaries grew by 23.2%, which contributed positively to the group's overall results.

“In addition and as part of our journey for digital transformation, stc has launched the digital operations control centre, which is considered the largest integrated operating centre in the region with an area of more than 42,000 sq m,” Alwetaid said.



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