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Wataniya tops 7 million

Subscriber levels soared by 141% in 2005 for the operator, spurred on by impressive growth from its units in Algeria and Iraq.

Wataniya Telecom, the Kuwaiti mobile operator with several international units, has announced its results, with subscribers topping 7 million. Outside of its home market, Wataniya operates in Tunisia, Iraq, Algeria, the Maldives and Saudi Arabia, and these interests helped boost subscriber levels by 141% in 2005, and push net profits from US$137 million in 2004 to US$180 million.

Revenue in 2005 rose to over US$1.2 billion, up from US$811 million last year. More dramatically, the rise has been meteoric since 2000, when revenues were just over US$96 million. Wataniya made its first venture outside of Kuwait in 2002, when it acquired 50% of Orascom Telecom Tunisie in Tunisia.

Looking at individual countries, Wataniya experience the largest increase in subscribers in Algeria and Iraq. In Algeria, under the Nedjma brand, Wataniya boosted its customers from 288,000 at the end of 2004 to 1.5 million at the end of 2005. In Iraq, operating as AsiaCell in the northern and central regions, numbers rose from 470,000 to 1.65 million.

Just days before the results were announced, the Kuwaiti cabinet approved in principal draft legislation that could see the establishing of a third mobile operator in the country. The country’s investment authority has been asked to conduct an economical and technical feasibility study over the next six months on the potential new operator.

Ahmad Haleem, CEO at Wataniya International, says the decision was parliamentarian. “Does Kuwait need a new operator? No,” he claims, pointing to the country’s penetration rate already approaching 90%, and prices that he says are some of the lowest in the region. “It’s about innovation, not just voice and text. The question is: will they do what we are already doing?”

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