With almost a dozen companies in the MEED 100, the telecoms sector is the second-most well represented in this years table. The composition of the group has changed markedly since last year, however, with three companies dropping out of the list and three new ones making an appearance.
Those heading for the exit included Telecom Egypt, which was ranked 78th last year, and Iraqi mobile operator Asiacell, which was 71st. Both have had to deal with turbulent conditions in their domestic markets, which have hampered their ability to provide reliable services to customers.
Kuwaits National Mobile Telecommunications Company (Ooredoo Kuwait, formerly Wataniya), which was in 97th place last year, has also dropped out of the list. Although it posted a slight rise in revenues of 2.4 per cent in 2014 compared with 2013, its net profit for the year was down by 40 per cent to KD45.7m ($153m).
The three new firms to take their place in this years table are led by Vodafone Qatar, which is ranked 73rd with a market capitalisation of $4bn. It has been able to take advantage of the fast-growing population and vibrant economy in Qatar. In the nine months to the end of December 2014, the operator saw revenues climb 21 per cent to QR1.7bn ($476m), and posted a 30 per cent reduction in its net losses to QR150m.
Also making the grade this year was Vodafone Egypt, which came in at 75th place with a value of $3.9bn, and Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel), which is ranked as the 87th largest listed company in the region, with a value of $3.4bn.
Some of the firms that stayed in the list suffered rather large falls. Qatars Ooredoo dropped back 15 places from 18th last year to 33rd this year. In its results, released on 10 March, the firm posted a 2 per cent fall in revenues to QR33.2bn and a 17 per cent fall in profit to QR2.1bn. Ooredoo says it has been doing well in some markets, such as Qatar, Oman and Algeria, but is finding business difficult in regions including Iraq, Kuwait, Tunisia and Indonesia.
Saudi-listed Etihad Etisalat Company (Mobily) suffered a far more dramatic fall, dropping from 8th place in last years rankings to 35th position this year. The operator announced an 18 per cent fall in revenues in 2014 and posted a net loss of SR913.4m ($244m), compared with a profit of SR5.9bn the year before. It has been struggling to meet some of the covenants on its long-term debts, according to a statement in late February by its auditor, the UKs PwC.
The performance of the other Saudi telecoms operator on the list, Saudi Telecom Company, was more stable. It remains the largest operator in the ranking, with a market capitalisation of $34.7bn putting it in 4th place overall. The firm lost a position due to being leapfrogged into 3rd by the entry of National Commercial Bank into the MEED 100 following its initial public offering in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Also maintaining a position in the top 10 this year is the UAEs Etisalat, which is ranked as the 6th most valuable listed company in the region, with a market capitalisation of $26.4bn.
Alongside the ups and downs of particular firms, there has also been a noticeable change in the overall value of the sector. Last year, telecoms companies accounted for about $100bn of the total value of the Top 100; this year, the market capitalisation of the sector has reached $112bn, highlighting just how vibrant this industry is.
The telecoms sector is also more diverse in geographic terms than most on the list. The 11 operators are drawn from seven countries around the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Iran all contribute two each, while Egypt, Kuwait and Oman contribute one each to the tally.