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Zain Saudi losses narrow in Q1

Operator cuts costs, sees revenue from data surge

Telecoms, Operators, Zain - Saudi Arabia

Zain Saudi's losses shrunk in the first quarter of this year, beating analyst forecasts, as the operator began to see gains in its data revenues and feel the benefits of a cost-cutting programme, Reuters reported.

The kingdom's number-three mobile operator by subscribers, Zain Saudi is 37% owned by Kuwait's Zain Group. It made a net loss of SAR318m ($84.8m) in the first three months of 2014, which was a 20% improvement on the SAR398m loss in the year-earlier period. A Reuters poll of analysts yielded a SAR400m average forecast for Q1 2014 losses.

Earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was up 45% at SAR300m.

Zain Saudi had previously embarked on a cost-cutting venture in its sales, distribution and marketing functions, which it cited as a driving factor for he improved performance. Also a factor was some changes in the depreciation of property and equipment.

Reuters also reported a separate statement from Zain Saudi in which the company said that mobile data revenue had risen 68%, but did not mention revenue figures.

Zain Saudi has not been in profit since its launch in 2008, but in June 2013 it struck a deal with the kingdom's government to defer payment on licence fees of around $1.49bn over 7 years.  A month later, the telco managed to secure an extension on a $2.3bn Islamic debt facility at a lower rate.