* Sonatel's rise in EBITDA meets market expectations
* Says results boosted by end to surtax in Senegal
* Looking for external growth in region in 2013
(Adds details, analyst comments)
By Bate Felix
DAKAR, Feb 12 Senegalese telecommunications
group Sonatel SA reported stronger full-year net
profit on Tuesday, using its dominant market position to fight
mounting competition from other West African providers, analysts
Sonatel's EBITDA profit met market expectations with a 3.7
percent rise to 347 billion CFA francs ($707.75 million) while
net profit jumped 11 percent to 171 billion CFA vs 154 billion
in 2011, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
It said turnover rose 4.3 percent to 663 billion CFA.
Profits were helped by an end to a surtax on international
calls in Senegal, one of its main markets, it said.
Sonatel, part owned by France Telecom, operates in
four countries in West Africa where its market share grew
year-on-year by 4 percent in Mali and Guinea, and 2 percent in
Senegal and Guinea Bissau respectively.
It has the biggest share of the market in two of the four
countries where it operates: in Mali 64 percent, Senegal 63
percent, 34 percent in Guinea and 39 percent in Guinea Bissau.
"It's quite simply due to their market position. They
resisted competition better than some expected. They fought.
They did what was necessary to keep their market share," said
Gabrial Fall, an Abidjan-based analyst who also chairs the board
of the regional West Africa BRVM bourse.
The company said its EBITDA margin, a measure of operating
profitability, was 52 percent, compared with 53 percent in the
previous year, and in line with its target of above 50 percent
for fiscal 2012.
Sonatel, one of the top companies on the regional bourse,
said it plans to pay a net dividend of 1,350 CFA francs per
share on May 3, 2013.
"We continue to like the story. They continue to generate a
lot of cash flow and have a generous dividend policy," said
Binta Drave, London-based equity analyst at Exotix.
"The two key markets of Mali and Senegal were much in line
with what we expected and, as we were expecting in Mali, we
didn't see any major drop in earnings," he said.
Drave said Sonatel's revenue growth year-on-year in Mali was
flat as its business was hampered by political upheaval,
following a Tuareg rebellion, a military coup and the occupation
of the northern half of the country by Islamist militants.
For its 2013 outlook, Sonatel said it is focussed on
controlling operational costs, while looking at external growth
into other markets in the region.
(Additional reporting by Joe Bavier in Abidjan; Editing by
Louise Ireland and Daniel Flynn)