Etisalat generated $1.65bn between January and March this year, about 26 per cent up on its revenues in the same three months of 2007.

Zain’s revenues were 23 per cent greater than a year ago. Although Zain remains bigger by sales, its net profits in the first quarter were just $271m, compared with Etisalat’s $578m.

Zain’s net profits were 10 per cent greater than in 2007 as it expands into markets where profit margins are smaller, such as sub-Saharan Africa and Iraq.

The Kuwaiti company will launch its mobile phone services in Saudi Arabia in late June.