Regional telcos posted another set of impressive results for the first nine months of 2004, with all those to have published figures reporting strong profits growth. Even incumbents in recently liberalised markets recoreded higher profits.

Qatar Telecom (Q-Tel)recorded the largest profits hike, with net income up by 29 per cent to QR 1,145 million ($306 million), while subscriber numbers rose to 476,000 – representing a 61 per cent penetration in the monopoly local market.

Q-Tel’s newly formed Omani venture, Nawras Telecom, which was awarded the sultanate’s second GSM licence in June, plans to launch operations in the first quarter of 2005.

Kuwait’s Wataniya Telecomcame in second place in terms of profits growth, with net income up by 24 per cent to KD 29.8 million ($103 million) and subscribers reaching 2.1 million. Wataniya’s local competitor MTC-Vodafoneposted more muted income growth with net profits rising by 8.9 per cent to KD 89.5 million ($309 million). Subscriber numbers increased by 210,000 to 2.8 million, led by a doubling of users of its Atheer Telecomsubsidiary in Iraq.

Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco)and Saudi Telecomare in the process of adjusting to competition in their home markets, but managed to post respectable profits increases. Batelco’s profits were up by 10 per cent year-on-year, excluding a one-off restructuring cost, to reach BD 64.7 million ($170 million). Penetration stands at about 78 per cent, the company said. Saudi Telecom posted a 17 per cent rise in net profits to SR 7,667 million ($2,045 million).