The Egyptian economy, which has grown by 7 per cent over the past two years, is expected to grow by 6 per cent in 2009, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Etisalat Misr is preparing for even slower growth in 2009. “If they [economists] announced 5 per cent, I think I will go with that,” says Gamal Sadat, chairman of Etisalat Misr. “Until now, however, there is no sign of a slowing down on mobile phone spending.

“We have a budget for 2009 and different scenarios depending on how bad it gets,” adds Saleh Abdooli, chief executive officer of the Egyptian firm. “There is a contingency plan if the financial situation is more difficult.”

Abdooli declined to say how much revenue the company is making, or the size of its losses. However, he says revenues will “reach £E6bn [$1.1bn] in 2010”, by which time it should be profitable.

Etisalat Misr had 5.6 million mobile phone customers at the end of September and, according to Abdooli, is on track to reach 6.8 million by the end of the year.

According to Sadat, the company’s ultimate aim is to gain a third of the market.

The other two mobile phone operators in Egypt – Orascom Telecom’s Mobinil and Vodafone Egypt – have cut prices to prevent Etisalat Misr building up its market share.