UPDATE 1-Kuwait telecom firm Zain posts flat Q4 profit, forex losses bite

Mon Jan 27, 2014 10:46am EST

* Profit 51 mln dinars from 50.5 mln a year ago

* Proposes dividend of 0.050 dinars (Adds details, context)

By Matt Smith

DUBAI, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Zain, Kuwait's No.1 telecom operator, reported near-flat fourth-quarter profit on Monday, missing analysts' estimates despite an 8 percent increase in its customer base as foreign exchange losses weighed.

The former monopoly, which operates in eight countries in the Middle East and Africa, made a net profit of 51 million Kuwaiti dinars ($180.6 million) in the three months to Dec. 31, it said in an emailed statement.

This was up from 50.5 million dinars a year earlier, Reuters data shows.

Two analysts polled by Reuters had forecast between 52.1 million and 59.1 million dinars this time.

Zain, which reported declining profits in the previous five quarters, had 46.1 million customers at the end of last year, up 8 percent from a year earlier.

The company's 2013 full-year profit was 216.4 million dinars, down from 252.2 million dinars in 2012.

It has proposed a dividend of 0.050 dinars per share.

Zain said foreign exchange revaluations wiped $149 million from its full-year profit, of which $6.3 million occurred in the fourth quarter.

This largely relates to Sudan, which devalued its currency by 35 percent last year. Tax reforms in Khartoum would help offset the company's foreign exchange hit, Zain said.

Sudan suspended a 30 percent income tax for telecom firms in mid-2013, replacing it with a 2.5 percent levy on revenue, Zain said.

"Factors outside of Zain's control such as an exceptional local currency devaluation in one key market, together with social instability in others continue to adversely affect our financial results," chief executive Scott Gegenheimer said in the statement.

Zain is the market leader in six of the eight countries in which it operates, including Iraq and South Sudan.

Violence in Iraq climbed back to its highest level in five years in 2013, while a rebellion broke out in South Sudan in December.

Data contributed 14 percent of Zain's full-year service revenue.

Annual revenue fell 3.3 percent to 1.24 billion dinars. ($1 = 0.2824 Kuwaiti dinars) (Reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by John Stonestreet)