* Khalid al-Kaf suspended pending earnings enquiry
* Deputy CEO Serkan Okandan to take temporary charge
* Okandan also CFO of UAE’s Etisalat
* Etisalat owns 27.5 pct of Mobily (Adds further details)
By Matt Smith
DUBAI, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Mobily, Saudi Arabia’s second-biggest telecoms network operator, said on Sunday it has suspended its chief executive Khalid al-Kaf and put his deputy Serkan Okandan in temporary charge pending an investigation into accounting errors.
Earlier this month the company announced a restatement of its results which it blamed on accounting errors, wiping out 1.43 billion riyals ($381 million) of previously reported profits and sending its share price tumbling.
Kaf will be suspended until Mobily’s audit committee completes its investigation into these errors, the company said in a statement.
Kaf was the Gulf’s longest-serving CEO in the sector, taking the helm at Mobily in 2005 after 19 years at United Arab Emirates’ Etisalat, which owns 27.5 percent of Mobily.
On Nov. 5 Etisalat cut its own profits by 162 million dirhams following Mobily’s results restatement.
Okandan, Etisalat’s chief financial officer, was appointed as deputy CEO of Mobily in October, while Etisalat’s chief executive Ahmad Julfar is also a director of Mobily and chairman of its Risk Management Committee. Another senior Etisalat executive Essa Al-Haddad also sits on Mobily’s board, according to Etisalat’s 2013 annual report.
Mobily’s share price has fallen 36 percent since late October, when rumours began to circulate that something was amiss with the company’s results, wiping out 6.56 billion riyals from the value of Etisalat’s stake, according to Reuters calculations.
Mobily began operations in 2005, ending Saudi Telecom Co’s (STC) monopoly, and it turned profitable the following year, marking the start of the operator’s remarkable rise.
Its annual profits more than quadrupled from 2006 to 2009 to reach 3 billion riyals that year, Reuters data shows.
Mobily reported a record annual profit in 2013 of 6.68 billion riyals, up 11 percent from the previous year, although that result has now been cut in the restatement. ($1 US dollar = 3.7516 Saudi riyals) (Editing by David French and Greg Mahlich)