UPDATE 1-Zain Saudi third-quarter net loss narrows but misses forecasts
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RIYADH Oct 27 (Reuters) - Zain Saudi, Saudi Arabia's third-largest telecoms operator, reported a narrowing loss for the third quarter on Sunday, missing analysts' forecasts, as its customer base rose by nearly a quarter.
It said in a bourse statement it made a net loss of 421 million riyals ($112 million) in the three months to Sept. 30, compared with a net loss of 493 million riyals a year ago.
Five analysts polled by Reuters on average had forecast Zain Saudi would make a quarterly loss of 339 million riyals.
The company has yet to make a quarterly profit since launching operations in 2008, but has taken significant steps to ease its debt burden this year, in July extending a $2.3 billion Islamic loan facility at a lower profit rate.
It also agreed a deal with the government in June that would allow it to defer payment of licence-related fees, which could total around $1.49 billion over seven years, and appointed industry veteran Hassan Kabbani as chief executive in September.
Quarterly revenue rose by 7 percent to 1.57 billion riyals from 1.53 billion riyals a year ago. The company attributed its better performance to the 24 percent growth of its customer base and a 37 percent jump in data traffic.
Zain Saudi added in its statement that it had reduced its operating expenses by 22 percent compared to a year ago. (Reporting By Angus McDowall and Matt Smith; editing by Mike Collett-White)