| 22 February, 2018

Bahrain's Batelco expects profit rebound, M&A activity in 2018

The weaker performance was mainly due to impairment losses.

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DUBAI - Bahrain Telecommunications Co BTEL.BH (Batelco) is anticipating profit of 40 to 45 million dinars in 2018 and is on the look out for acquisition opportunities in the telecoms and digital spaces, its executives said on on Thursday.

They were speaking on a media conference call after the company, with operations across 14 countries, slumped to a 21.7 million dinars ($57.6 million) loss during the fourth quarter, compared to a net profit of 5.2 million dinars in the same period of last year.

The weaker performance was mainly due to impairment losses related to the company's investments in Yemen and Jordan, it said. Without the impairments, the company's profit would be more than 40 million dinars.

"We believe the group is fundamentally in great shape and we expect net profits in the range of 40 to 45 million dinars in 2018," said group Chief Executive Ihab Hinnawi.

Batelco's full-year 2017 consolidated net profit was 3.5 million dinars, 91 percent down from the year earlier period.

The company was in the market for acquisition opportunities that would boost profitability, he said, adding it hoped to sign a deal in 2018 but declined to be more specific.

Any acquisition would be financed by capital raising, group chief financial officer Faisal Qamhiyah said, adding that if it did not complete any acquisition the company had enough capital on its balance sheet, sufficient to fund an annual dividend of 25 fils per share for the next three years.

Batelco earlier announced that its 2017 full-year dividend would be 25 fils per share and that it intended to acquire up to 10 percent of its paid-up capital as treasury shares, subject to required approvals.

The impairments related to Yemen were due to a deterioration in the local currency and other economic impacts as a result of the civil war, said Hinnawi.

Batelco said its business in Jordan was hit by high telecom taxes and increased electricity costs on telecom companies.

During 2017, 128 staff in Bahrain volunteered to take early retirement, costing the company 8.1 million dinars. Hinnawi said he doubted such a move will be repeated in 2018.

($1 = 0.3768 Bahraini dinars)

(Editing by David Evans) ((; +97144536265; Reuters Messaging: