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* Q1 profit 1.21 bln riyals vs 998 mln riyals a year earlier
* 21 percent profit surge attributed to improved voice revenue Saudi Arabia’s Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) on Monday reported a 21 percent rise in first-quarter net profit, just short of analysts’ estimates, citing improved revenue from voice services and business customers.
Mobily, an affiliate of the United Arab Emirates’ Etisalat , made a profit of 1.207 billion riyals in the three months to March 31, up from 998 million riyals in the year-earlier period, the company said in a statement on the bourse website.
Analysts polled by Reuters on average forecast Mobily would make a quarterly profit of 1.3 billion riyals.
“The increase in revenue is attributable to the higher revenue from voice services with the increase in the number of minutes of use, the continued increase in the number of post-paid subscribers and the increase in business sector revenue,” said the statement.
It said gross profit was 2.613 billion riyals compared to 2.289 billion in the first months of 2011.
In January the company’s chief executive Khaled al-Kaf said the company would sustain double-digit profit growth in coming years thanks to rising mobile contracts and data revenue.
Mobile penetration in Saudi Arabia is among the highest in the world, with nearly two phones per person.
Mobily in February signed a 10 billion riyals ($2.67 billion) sharia-compliant loan refinancing with a group of seven local banks to increase revenues and invest in its broadband and data services business. (Reporting By Rania El Gamal in Dubai and Angus McDowall in London; editing by James Jukwey)