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Batelco CEO sees single digit profit growth in 2009

Boss of Bahrain's biggest telco also says he expects company to post strong Q2 results.

Batelco, Bahrain’s largest telecoms operator, expects to register single-digit growth in profits for 2009, according to its CEO.

In April, Peter Kaliaropoulos had predicted the firm would enjoy double-digit revenue growth for the year, citing demand for domestic data, international data lines and mobility.

However, he told Arabian Business in an interview that the telco’s acquisition of a significant stake in an Indian mobile operator in May is likely to limit profit growth.
 
“We continue to grow, but it won’t be double-digit because we have India starting in Q4,” Kaliaropoulos said.

In May, it was announced that Batelco had finalized the acquisition of a 49 percent shareholding in S Tel Limited, which has licences to operate in six Indian states.

The stake cost Batelco $225m, and the Bahraini firm has since been assisting S Tel in the rollout of network infrastructure in readiness for its launch before the end of the year.

“If we didn’t have India, then we’d have double-digit growth, in terms of profits,” said Kaliaropoulos. “As we do have India, it is most likely that our results will be similar to last year.”
 
In 2008, the firm posted a net profit of $276.4m, an increase of 2.7% compared to 2007 earnings.

In the meantime, Kaliaropoulos added that he expected the firm to post strong Q2 results, besting those for Q1, during which Batelco registered a net profit of $69.8m.
 
“We’re in the blackout period for the second quarter, and we hope to pleasantly surprise people [with the Q2 results],” said Kaliaropoulos. “We expect Q2 will be better than Q1, and Q2 this year will be much better than Q2 last year.”

Batelco faces increasing competition in its home market after Saudi Telecom Co won Bahrain's third mobile licence in January.