February 13, 2014 / 1:40 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Maroc Telecom profit falls on tax charge

* FY net down 17.4 percent to 5.54 bln Moroccan dirhams

* Company pays 1.5 billion dirhams after tax audit

* Had already made 468 mln provision

* Shares down 2.2 pct (Add CEO quotes, details)

By Aziz El Yaakoubi

RABAT, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Maroc Telecom, the country’s largest telecom operator, said net profit fell 17.4 percent last year to 5.54 billion Moroccan dirhams ($672 million), due partly to a 1 billion dirhams tax charge.

The company paid 1.5 billion dirhams to the government in a tax agreement, of which 468 million was already covered by a provision.

Maroc Telecom Chairman Abdeslam Ahizoune said the tax agreement had been reached a little time before the announcement of the results.

“It is only one payment and it is done now,” he told reporters. “It has not changed significantly our results.”

Shares of the company were down 2.2 percent at 95.81 dirhams by 1331 GMT.

Etisalat has agreed to buy Vivendi’s 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom for 4.2 billion euros ($5.7 billion), giving the Abu Dhabi company control over the largest wireless carrier in Morocco and a bigger footprint in sub-Saharan Africa.

Etisalat and Vivendi are discussing conditions to allow the deal to be closed, the chairman said without giving any further details.

Maroc Telecom’s sales revenue fell 4.3 percent last year, hit by an 8.1 percent drop in Morocco, its main market, although its customer base grew to 37 million from 33 million.

International revenue rose 9.5 percent.

Revenue at Maroc Telecom’s subsidiaries grew 13.9 percent in Gabon, 9.3 percent in Mali, 6.3 percent in Burkina Faso and 9.1 percent in Mauritania.

The company said it had hit its target for an operating margin of approximately 56.8 percent as a result of cost cutting. The operating margin was 56 percent in 2012.

Maroc Telecom launched a restructuring plan in 2012 which has reduced its workforce by 14 percent, or 1,404 staff.

Last year, it agreed with the Moroccan government a 900 million euros investment to upgrade its network infrastructure and install fibre optics across the country. The Moroccan government still owns 30 percent of the company.

The government is preparing a draft law on the telecoms sector which would give more protection to customers.

Ahizoune said the law would have little effect on Maroc Telecom’s performance. “We expect a slight decrease in our operating margin, but I leave the real estimations to the analysts,” he said.

($1 = 8.2444 Moroccan dirhams)

$1 = 0.7359 euros Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Mark Potter and David Holmes

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