Zain was impacted by social unrest and tax increases in Iraq
Kuwait-based telecom operator Zain recorded 277 million dinars ($919 million) in consolidated revenues during the first quarter of 2016, nearly flat compared to the same quarter last year.
The group’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the quarter reached 123 million dinars, an increase of 5% year-over-year, reflecting an EBITDA margin of 44%. Net income for the period reached 37 million dinars, down 9% compared to Q1 2015. Revenue from the data segment grew 8% year-over-year in Q1, and now represents 21% of the company’s overall revenue.
“We are managing the highly changeable environments we face particularly with regard to the social unrest and hefty tax increases in Iraq that has impacted mobile consumption, as well as the intense price competition in our home market of Kuwait in a pragmatic manner, and we remain hopeful of the improving conditions across all our markets,” said Zain Group Chairman Asaad Al Banwan. “We are pleased by the performance of our Jordan and Saudi Arabia operations having invested significantly in 3G/4G network expansion upgrades and spectrum licenses there and in other markets to improve our customers’ mobile experience.”
Zain Group said it had 45.9 million customers at the end of the first quarter. The telco has operations in Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and South Sudan. In Lebanon, the group manages local operator Touch on behalf of the government. Zain said it currently offers LTE in its Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan operations as well as in Lebanon.
In Kuwait, the telco ended the period with 2.9 million subscribers. The group revenues reached 84 million dinars in the country, while EBITDA amounted to 40 million dinars and net income came in at 22 million dinars. Data revenues represented 35% of Zain’s overall revenues in Kuwait.
In Iraq, the company’s revenues reached $270 million, down 11% year-over-year.
Zain expects to carry out tests of LTE-Advanced Pro technology, also referred to as “4.5G” technology by some vendors, across its regional footprint, the group’s CEO Scott Gegenheimer previously told RCR Wireless News. The executive confirmed the tests will be carried out in partnership with vendors Huawei and Ericsson.
EE to expand LTE coverage to 95% of U.K. by 2020
In other EMEA news, U.K. mobile operator EE announced plans to expand LTE coverage to 95% of the U.K. by 2020, compared to current coverage at 60%, the telco said in a statement.
“For the average smartphone user, ‘not spots’ aren’t tolerated and 2G doesn’t deliver what they need. Customers want 4G speeds everywhere they go. … We have the ultimate aim of covering the whole U.K. with 4G,” said EE CEO Marc Allera.
The company said the new goal will require the deployment of 750 new LTE sites across EE’s current 4G network. Part of the BT Group, EE ended last year with more than 14 million LTE subscribers.