CAIRO: MobiNil, Egypt s largest mobile phone operator by subscribers, said it would continue to experience robust growth despite the global economic crisis.
“Our third quarter results beat expectations, and we expect that end of year results would match analysts’ expectations, MobiNil Chairman Alex Shalaby told a conference Wednesday to mark reaching 20 million subscribers.
“Up till now, we are doing very well, he said, adding that it is hard to predict the future and MobiNil’s performance depends on the severity of the repercussions of the financial turmoil on the Egyptian economy as a whole.
“We are all being impacted by this crisis. No one is immune, but our country has been less impacted than others, and MobiNil has been less impacted than other sectors such as real estate and banking.
MobiNil, also known as Egyptian Company for Mobile Services, has been able to capture 20 million subscribers since its establishment in 1998. The number compares to 18.91 million at the end of September and 15 million at the end of 2007.
Egypt’s first mobile phone operator now holds a share of around 50 percent of the market, where an estimated 40 million use mobile phones.
Company executives said they expected greener performance for the rest of the year on higher demand during the holiday’s season.
Hassan Qabani, CEO of MobiNil, pointed out that the ongoing financial meltdown would have limited effects on telecommunications markets.
“People will continue to eat, buy clothes, and talk. These [activities] are necessity and not extravagant, he said. “Furthermore, using mobile phones can move economic growth forward because consumers [prefer to] use it to conduct their businesses.
A survey by the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA), released last month, showed that mobile subscriber base in Egypt has grown 9 percent, hitting 38.062 million by the end of the third quarter of 2008, translating into a 50.7 percent penetration of the total population.
“Mobile penetration rate is expected to soar 57-58 percent by the end of the year. A rate close to 60 percent was by all means unexpected, Shalaby stated.
MobiNil posted a 20 percent rise in net income in the first nine months of this year to LE 7.3 billion. The largest shareholders in MobiNil are France Telecom and Orascom Telecom.
“Total size of investment in the Egyptian market has so far reached LE 19 billion, Qabani said. The figure is expected to surge to LE 22 billion by the end of 2009.
Investments in 2007/08 alone hit LE 7.3 billion. MobiNil bought a 15-year 3G license in October 2007 and launched its new network in Egypt in September this year, after agreeing to pay LE 3.34 billion ($602 million).
“3G applications are starting to grow in Egypt. There’s demand, particularly from university students, Shalaby explained.
MobiNil plans to provide mobile banking and financial services via BNP Paribas Bank upon receiving approval from the NTRA as well as the central bank.
MobiNil filed last month a law suit to stop implementation of NTRA interconnection compromise between Telecom Egypt (TE) and two of Egypt’s three mobile operators, Vodafone Egypt and MobiNil.
The agreement had been imposed by a dispute settlement commission appointed by the state-run NTRA.
MobiNil said it could accept a drop in interconnection rates but that levels suggested by the regulator were “not reasonable.
The firm said in early November a change in interconnection rates between it and state-owned fixed-line monopoly TE should be part of a broader package of changes.
On Wednesday, Shalaby said it was MobiNil’s right to take such steps and they are “100 percent correct. He hoped to get resolution on the matter “before too long.