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Wataniya Telecom posts record profits

Kuwait's second largest mobile phone operator grows Q4 profits by 68.5% over prior year.

Kuwait's National Mobile Telecommunications Co., Wataniya, the country's second-largest mobile phone operator, posted its biggest quarterly profit of 2006 in the fourth quarter.

Net income in the three months to Dec. 31 surged 68.5 percent to 23.08 million dinars ($79.81 million), compared with 13.7 million dinars in the year-earlier period.

Wataniya did not provide fourth-quarter data, which Reuters calculated from previous financial statements posted on the company's Web site.

The company posted a 38.6 percent rise in full-year profits to 73.2 million dinars, according to a statement on the bourse Web site.

Wataniya proposed a cash dividend of 110 percent.

In a Reuters net profit survey in December, Shuaa Capital estimated Wataniya would post fourth-quarter profits of 25.12 million dinars, up 83.9 percent, while Global Investment House expected profits would rise 46.6 percent to 20.02 million dinars.

Shares of Wataniya, the smaller of the two current mobile service providers after Mobile Telecommunications Co., have risen 13.5 percent so far this year.

Kuwait's parliament approved in January a bill to set up a third mobile phone company, after the cabinet approved the plan in December.

Wataniya, like other Gulf Arab telecom operators, has been expanding abroad.

The firm won the license to build and operate the second Palestinian mobile telecommunications service in September. It also has operations in Iraq, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and the Maldives.