e& eyes acquisitions to expand globally

Experts said that new deals are in the pipeline for the Egyptian and Pakistani markets; as well as 100 per cent 5G services in the UAE in the next 18 months
Experts said that new deals are in the pipeline for the Egyptian and Pakistani markets; as well as 100 per cent 5G services in the UAE in the next 18 months

Founded in Abu Dhabi more than four decades ago as the UAE’s first telecommunications company, the group now operates in 16 countries across the Middle East, Asia and Africa

By Muzaffar Rizvi

Published: Sat 26 Feb 2022, 6:21 PM

Last updated: Sun 27 Feb 2022, 2:57 PM

e& will explore new markets in Africa, Europe and Asia to sustain its growth momentum in the coming years, its top official said.

Hatem Dowidar, group CEO of e&, said that the company is exploring a range of possibilities in new business verticals such as AI, machine computing, clouds and e-gaming.

“We will be exploring potential joint ventures, acquisitions in key growth markets and listings of subsidiaries, but would like to retain control of all our units,” Dowidar said at a media briefing in Dubai on Saturday.

He said the group is offering 5G services to 90 per cent areas in its UAE and Saudi markets.

“We will be covering the whole of the UAE with 100 per cent 5G services in the next 18 months,” he said.

Strong presence in Mena

Jassem Mohamed Bu Ataba Alzaabi, chairman of e&, and other top officials also spoke to the media about the group’s journey and the way forward in leading change for growth.

The telecom group, which has a strong presence in 16 key markets in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan, recently separated its business into consumer services-focused e& life, e& enterprise to provide digital services to government and business, and telecoms arm etisalat. It has also set up e& capital to drive acquisitions and mergers.

Dowidar said telecom business still contributes major share in overall revenues and it will continue to play significant role in coming years.

“We are looking at geographic expansion to expand our telecom business. We will be exploring markets in Africa, Europe and Asia with room for growth, political stability and strong regulations, he said but did not name any specific target markets.

Open for deals

Dowidar said the group is open to potential deals with other large telecoms provider in key growth markets in coming months.

“Some announcements are in the pipeline and we will soon share potential deals in Egyptian and Pakistani markets. The announcement in Egypt will be related to the fintech sector, he said.

He said e& has an undisputed market position across the Mena region with an ICT market size across UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt that is expected to grow by more than 15 per cent yearly from 2020-25.

“The global economy is growing on the back of ever-faster digitalisation and increasing income and wealth, with significant digital white spaces remaining in the Mena region,” he said.

Regulators to decide on VoIP apps

In reply to a question about VoIP service providers such as WhatsApp, he said it is the telecom regulator who will take a call to unblock internet-calling applications in the country.

“We are ready for competition in the market ... at the end of the day, these applications, they all use data. It might decrease our voice usage, but it will increase our data usage,” Dowidar said.

About the possibility of any new competitor in the UAE, he said it is highly unlikely due to high penetration.

Referring to latest financial data, he said the group’s aggregate subscribers increased three per cent last year to 159 million compared to 154 million in 2020.

“We have sustained an upward trend in profitability by registering a steady 3.2 per cent increase in net profits and revenues in 2021,” Dowidar said, adding that the company has joined the top 10 club by climbing six positions to rank seventh largest telecom globally in terms of market capitalisation.

He said a breakdown of how much each unit contributes would be shared with investors at at appropriate time.

Why the change in brand identity

Earlier at the media briefing, Jassem Mohamed Bu Ataba Alzaabi, shared his thoughts about the reason behind making the change in brand identity at this point in time, explaining how the digital revolution had impacted the business world and what needs to happen for the Group to ride the change.

“There is no better time than now for us to ramp up our efforts and reaffirm our determination to accomplish more for the benefits of our customers and shareholders alike, across the board,” he said.

“We are the bridge builders who have mastered the art of combining our scalable technological competencies with our robust telecoms expertise so that we can drive positive change for our customers, unlock more shareholder value and strengthen our global presence,” he added.

Alzaabi also highlighted some of e&’s achievements that paved the way to its next chapter. He said the group is ready to realign its business models, and refocus its efforts in investing in breakthrough technologies, pursuing aggressive market penetrations and capitalising on strong partnerships.

“Driven by our track record of continual success and milestone achievements we have witnessed so far, we are confident in leading the digitalisation conversation. Through our main business pillars, we are creating a future-ready business model that celebrates our past and embraces the opportunities ahead of us,” he said.


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