Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) has reported its end-of-year results for its operations across seven countries in the Middle East, North Africa and India. Gross revenues reached BHD327.0 million (USD867.4 million) in the year ended 31 December 2011, down 4% from BHD340.3 million the previous year, reflecting ‘challenging market conditions and competitive pressures’ in its domestic market, whilst Batelco continued its drive to diversify its operations. 37% of group revenues in 2011 were generated in markets outside Bahrain, compared to 34% in 2010, while the company reported that 30% of operating profit is now sourced from foreign subsidiaries. Consolidated subscribers surpassed eleven million at the end of 2011, up by 20% year-on-year, driven by 21% growth in mobile customers and an 8% increase in the broadband subscriber base.
For the full year, the group reported net profits of BHD80.0 million, versus BHD86.8 million in 2010, representing a decline of 8%, and EBITDA also fell, by 13.8%, from BHD146.2 million to BHD126.0 million. Batelco’s chairman, Shaikh Hamad Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, commented: ‘Whilst our financial results showed expected declines for the year in line with market guidance, we are nevertheless pleased to have ended the year on a strong note with the fourth quarter accounting for the highest EBITDA reported in 2011. Further growth will also be supported by the group’s Investment Grade Credit Ratings received during the fourth quarter of the year from leading global credit ratings agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor’s. These were the first public credit ratings issued to the group.’ As of 31 December 2011 Batelco was free of debt and had cash and bank balances of BHD107.9 million, up 24% year-on-year.
In Bahrain, Batelco suffered a 4% decline in its mobile customer base in 2011 to 740,000, an expected result of aggressive competition from young rival Viva Bahrain (owned by Saudi Telecom Company). A ‘nominal’ 1% increase in its fixed broadband customer base to 89,000 in the year was augmented by ‘more than 50%’ growth in its wireless broadband subscriber numbers, while fixed voice lines in service declined by 8% year-on-year as customers continued to migrate to mobile services.
Looking at international subsidiaries, Batelco’s Jordanian unit Umniah delivered growth of 8% in its mobile subscriber base for the year, which now stands at some 2.3 million customers, while it is on course to launch a 3G network within the next six months. USD70 million was paid for the 3G licence in early January 2012.
In Kuwait, Batelco’s subsidiary Qualitynet registered a 4% increase in its broadband customer numbers, reaching a total of more than 40,000. Sabafon in Yemen registered 12% growth in its mobile customer base for 2011, which now stands at more than four million. Indian unit STel’s mobile customer base grew by 53% in the year, reaching 3.5 million customers, while Atheeb (Saudi Arabia), reported 114,000 consumer voice and data subscribers at end-December, up 10% year-on-year.