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UPDATE 1-Zain sees Q1 net profit near 2008 level -paper

* Telecoms company confirms 2009 outlook

* CEO also sees “huge jump” in Q3, Q4

(Adds details, stock performance, analyst)

KUWAIT, April 2 (Reuters) - Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co ZAIN.KW (Zain) expects first-quarter net profit to be close to its year-ago level, its chief executive was quoted as saying by a newspaper on Thursday.

“(Chief Executive Saad) al-Barrak confirmed first-quarter profit will be close to profit in the first quarter of 2008 which was at 73.3 million dinars ($251 million),” daily al-Watan said.

Zain, the third-largest telecoms company in the Gulf Arab region, has been spending billions of dollars to expand abroad as competition heats up at home where VIVA, an affiliate of Saudi Telecom 7010.SE, has recently started operations.

Another daily, al-Rai, also quoted Barrak as saying Kuwait’s biggest mobile operator hopes first-quarter figures would be close to last year’s levels, adding the firm will see a “huge jump” in its results in the third and last quarters of the year.

“Barrak is optimistic. Zain is confident that its expansion will start to pay off from this year,” said Mustapha Behbehani, a director at Gulf Consulting Co.

Shares in Zain rose as much as 2.8 percent in early trading and were 1.4 percent higher at 720 fils by 0824 GMT.

Zain spokesman Ibrahim Adel declined to comment on the reports but said “the first and second quarter will be difficult given the economic environment.”

“We keep our targets we set before the financial crisis started. These targets are optimistic,” Adel said.

For 2009 the company -- in which Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund is the biggest shareholder -- expects net profit of $1.6 billion, revenue of $10 billion, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of around $4.7 billion, Adel said. [ID:nL1619551]

Barrak said the firm is sticking to an earlier target to reach more than $2.2 billion in net profit, about $13 billion in revenues and about 110 million subscribers in 2011, according to Watan. It gave no figures in dinars. ($1=.2916 Kuwaiti Dinar) (Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Sam Cage and Erica Billingham; editing by Simon Jessop)

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