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Qtel’s growth slows in fourth quarter

Qatari incumbent reports record full year results for 2008 despite slowdown in fourth quarter.

Qatar's incumbent telecom operator Qtel posted record results for the full year 2008, with group revenue reaching QR20.3 billion ($5.57 billion), a rise of 93% compared with 2007, although growth slowed in the fourth quarter.

The company reported a fourth quarter net profit of QR446 million ($122 million) compared with QR651 million ($178.7 million) in the third quarter of 2008, while fourth quarter revenue declined by about QR118 million ($32 million) to QR6 billion ($1.65 billion). But Qtel did manage to increase its user numbers by 1.8 million in the fourth quarter, to reach 57.5 million users.

The figures, which mirror a decline in fourth quarter growth at other regional operators including STC and Etisalat, did little to dent overall results for the full year 2008. Group revenue for 2008 was up by 93% compared with 2007 and the company posted EBITDA of QR9.82 billion ($2.69 billion) for the full year 2008, up by 90% from 2007. Net profit reached QR2.27 billion ($625.3 million), up from QR1.66 billion ($459 million) in 2007.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al-Thani, chairman of the Qtel Group said: "Operational progress made in Q4 - particularly in core markets such as Qatar, Oman and Kuwait - ensured that today's full year results are some of the best in our group's history.

"We have continued to expand our global footprint, with further acquisitions and strategic partnerships in our target geographies of the Middle East and North Africa, the Subcontinent and Southeast Asia."

Al-Thani added that Qtel's acquisition of a majority stake in Indonesia's second biggest operator, Indosat, had positioned the company for growth in "one of the world's most populous markets."

Qtel has a presence in 17 different countries serving 57.5 million customers. In 2008, the company increased its presence in Qatar, Indonesia, Kuwait, Iraq and Algeria, and the five countries represent the group's largest markets by revenue, contributing 27%, 21%, 15%, 14% and 9% to group's revenue respectively, the company said in a statement.