* Takes 2.37 bln dirham impairment on Pakistan unit
* Books 459 mln dirham writedown on Sudan fixed-line firm
* Q4 profit 854 mln dirhams vs 704 mln dirhams a yr ago
* Q4 revenue 8.48 bln dirhams vs 8.23 bln dirhams a yr ago
By Matt Smith
DUBAI, Feb 19 - Etisalat, the United Arab
Emirates' biggest telecom operator, has written down the value
of businesses in Pakistan and Sudan by a combined $769 million,
blaming tough political and economic conditions and crimping
quarterly profit growth.
The state-controlled firm operates in about 15 countries
across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, having expanded into
new markets in the last decade in an attempt to offset the
impact of the launch of domestic rival du in 2007.
These acquisitions have provided mixed results, with Saudi
Arabia affiliate Mobily among most analysts' top
regional picks, but Etisalat has found it much harder going in
lower income markets outside the Gulf.
Last year, the Abu Dhabi firm wrote off the $827 million
value of its Indian operation in its 2011 fourth-quarter
Of the latest 2.83 billion dirhams of impairments, 2.37
billion relate to Pakistani affiliate Pakistan Telecommunication
Co Ltd (PTCL) and 459 million to Sudan fixed-lined
Etisalat said it took the impairments due to inflation and
"challenging economic and political conditions as well as by the
downtrend in real estate prices combined with negative local
These impairments reduced Etisalat's fourth-quarter net
profit to 854.3 million dirhams, according to Reuters
This compares with a profit of 704 million dirhams in the
prior-year period when the company took the India write down.
One analyst at Bahrain's Securities & Investment Co (SICO),
who had not expected Etisalat's new write-downs, forecast the
operator would make a quarterly profit of 2.84 billion dirhams.
Etisalat's 2012 net profit was 6.74 billion dirhams, up from
5.84 billion dirhams in 2011.
The firm reported rising profits in the second and third
quarters, with the latter period boosted by the $510 million
sale of a 9.1 percent stake in Indonesian affiliate PT XL Axiata
These appeared to mark a turnaround for the company, which
up to and including the first quarter of 2012 had posted falling
profits in eight out of nine quarters, prompting Etisalat's
revamped management to focus on high growth or high population
markets such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well as mounting a
fight-back against domestic rival du.
Fourth-quarter revenue was 8.48 billion dirhams. This
compares to 8.23 billion dirhams a year ago.
($1 = 3.6730 UAE dirhams)
(Reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by Mark Potter)