Etisalat expects single-digit revenue growth this year

Etisalat Group, the UAE’s largest publicly traded company, said the outlook for this year is “stable”.

In a presentation for its fourth-quarter results, the operator revealed that it expects revenue growth in the low single digits for the year ahead – assuming monthly forex rates against the dirham stay the same as in 2015.

The margin on earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (Ebitda) is forecast at 48 to 50 per cent this year, flat on last year’s 51 per cent. The guidance also suggests 2016 will not be quite as capital-intensive, with a capex to revenue ratio of 18 per cent expected, compared to 20 per cent for last year. Investment plans for this year include in spectrum and networks to support data growth and the development of ICT and digital capabilities.

Etisalat’s priorities this year also include defending its leadership position and “value share” in Morocco and the UAE, and an increased focus on cash flow generation.

The guidance from the company comes amid a “rapidly changing” telecoms industry that features challenges such as intense competition and price pressure, according to Etisalat. Consumer consumption is also undergoing upheaval with demand for data services “exploding”.

Last week, the group named Hatem Dowidar as acting chief executive after Ahmad Julfar resigned with immediate effect for personal reasons.

The announcement came as the group reported year-on-year growth of 10 per cent in fourth quarter net profits, in spite of falling revenues.

Revenues were Dh12.67 billion for the period, a year-on-year decrease of 4 per cent, which Etisalat attributed to “one-off adjustments”.

Mr Dowidar, the chief operating officer, will remain as acting chief executive until the “restructuring of Etisalat Group by the end of June”, the company said on Thursday. It did not provide further details on what the restructuring could involve.

The company’s shares, which were made available to foreign shareholders for the first time in September, have risen by more than 50 per cent since last June.

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