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The telecom industry is undergoing an unprecedented digital transformation. With evolving technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, Internet-of-Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, cloud, robotics, and blockchain, as well as the introduction of new business models to cater to the changing customer demands, Etisalat Group remains at the forefront of digital innovation in telecommunications.

Focusing on end-to-end digitization, Etisalat underpins the digital revolution by adapting to an increasingly tech-reliant lifestyle, supporting businesses on the way they operate and deliver value, and providing smarter solutions toward government and cities. 2020 has been a challenging year and yet Etisalat’s journey was transformational as it braces the “new normal” and accelerates further toward the future.

Among its outstanding feats are a robust financial performance, recognition as the strongest brand in the Middle East and Africa region, brand new investments for telecom infrastructure and technological advancements, and extended efforts for achieving massive digital transformation.

Etisalat recorded the highest annual results with net profits touching Dh9 billion & 3.8% YoY growth

With an international footprint that extends to 16 countries across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, Etisalat continued its focus on enhancing the core business and exploring new growth opportunities, while being well-equipped for delivering its digital capabilities and solutions.

As a result, Etisalat’s dedication to building a robust, agile, and transformative business allows a strong, sustainable, and profitable shareholder value and returns. In retrospect, Etisalat Group announced its consolidated net profit for the year 2020 of Dh9 billion, recording a 3.8% year-on-year (YOY) growth that has been attributed to strong growth in international operations. Since 2016, these results are among the highest annual profits recorded by the Group.

Eng. Hatem Dowidar, CEO, Etisalat Group emphasized that Etisalat’s advanced network, recognised for being the fastest mobile network in 2020, and its ability to adapt and implement plays an instrumental role during the pandemic. “In this time of uncertainty, our primary goal is to keep our valuable customers, employees, and society fully connected.”

Following this, the unveiled Q1 2021 results display a continuation of the strong performance the company has achieved over the past year. In detail, consolidated revenues for the first quarter amounted to Dh13.2 billion, representing an increase of 0.8% YOY and 1.2% quarter-over-quarter. Moreover, the consolidated net profit after Federal Royalty amounted to Dh2.3 billion, representing a 7.9% increase YoY and 14.7% quarter over quarter, resulting in a net profit margin of 18%.

In terms of Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA), it is stable compared to the prior year with a 51% EBITDA margin, amounting to Dh 6.8 billion, representing an increase of 0.7% YOY and 7.4% quarter over quarter.

The company’s generated first-quarter results are the outcome of its efforts to serving consumers in the new work-and-learn-from-anywhere scenario, according to Hatem Dowidar. Besides, the leading telco will continue to focus on capitalizing on opportunities and enhancing the overall customer experience while delivering long-term value for all shareholders.

In fact, during the Annual General Meeting (AGM), the Etisalat Group shareholders agreed to distribute a full-year cash dividend of 80 fils per share for the FY 2020 and additional one-time special dividends of 40 fils per share. This brings the total dividend per share to AED 1.20. Not only that, but shareholders also approved raising the non-UAE national (foreign) ownership limit from 20% to 49%.

Etisalat Group’s new bonds issuance aims to maximise shareholders value by reducing the cost of funding

Etisalat Group has announced the successful completion of a bond issuance worth one billion euros to refinance the maturing bond it had issued in 2014 for the acquisition of a controlling stake (53%) in Maroc Telecom. Issued in two tranches, the first is a 7-year tranche amounting to 500 million euros with an annual yield of 0.4 percent while the second tranche is for a 12-year period worth 500 million euros with a 1 percent annual yield.

The bond issuance was very successful as it witnessed a remarkable demand from local and international investors, reflecting investors’ confidence in Etisalat Group’s performance, strong financial profile, and credit ratings. Specifically, Aa3 stable (Moody’s) and AA- Stable (S&P Global) are considered within the highest ratings in the industry.

More so, Morocco-based Maroc Telecom, the first global telecom operator in the country, continuously expands its 4G mobile network coverage that reached 99% of the Moroccan population in 2020. This is one of the impacts of the signed deal worth Dh10 billion dirhams between the telco and the Moroccan government in 2019 to develop telecoms infrastructure over the next three years.

Etisalat made history becoming the strongest telecom brand in MEA region and ranked among the top 5 telecom brands globally

In January 2021, Etisalat made history when Brand Finance, the world’s leading independent brand valuation and strategy consultancy, named it the strongest brand across all categories in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. The Group scored a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 87.4 out of 100 and a corresponding AAA brand strength rating Ð the only brand in the region to achieve this rating. It put Etisalat among the top 25 brands globally in the strongest brands index. Etisalat achieved this global brand strength through its continuous efforts and investments in accelerating value to its consumers across markets with the launch of many successful innovative global branding initiatives.

This recognition put Etisalat up 17 spots in the global 500 brand value ranking from 225th to 208th and is ranked among the top five strongest telecom brands across global markets and the strongest telecom brand in the MEA region.

For the fifth year in a row, Etisalat has retained its title of the most valuable telecom portfolio of brands, touching over AED 40 billion, including Etisalat Misr, Mobily, Ufone, Maroc Telecom, PTCL and is also the only telecom brand to retain AAA brand rating.

Commenting on Etisalat’s achievements, David Haigh, CEO, Brand Finance commented saying, “When COVID struck in 2020, Etisalat led from the front ensuring business continuity, digital and innovative solutions staying relevant and enabling the nation with the fastest network on the planet, Etisalat has earned its place as the region’s ‘Strongest Brand.’”

Etisalat’s 5G network will play an important role in delivering the fastest, smartest and best connectivity to Expo 2020

Focusing on its vision to ‘drive the digital future to empower societies,’ Etisalat has been at the forefront to bring digital ambitions to reality by spearheading the deployment of the 5G network and setting a major benchmark in the industry.

“Etisalat has become a key regional and international player in 5G especially with one of the biggest world expo powered by 5G to be held next year”, said Etisalat Group CEO.

The upcoming Expo 2020 Dubai is being seen as an event that will foster global trade and bring countries together to come up with real-life solutions to business challenges worldwide. The UAE has been lauded by the participating countries for its technological infrastructure to host such massive world events. As the country’s leading telecommunication company, Etisalat is the preferred premier digital services and telecommunications partner of Expo 2020 Dubai and it is prepared to deliver the 5G connectivity for the millions of delegates and visitors participating in the event.

Etisalat’s services in the 5G network will play an important role in delivering the fastest, smartest and best connectivity to ensure that the massive security and logistical readiness is in place for the mega world expo.

Commenting on Etisalat’s participation, Dr. Ahmed Bin Ali, Group Senior Vice President, Corporate Communication, Etisalat, commented saying, “As the Official Telecommunications and Digital Services Premier Partner of Expo 2020 Dubai, Etisalat is proud to have supported Pavilions Premiere and the debut of Terra Ð The Sustainability Pavilion. We delivered state-of-art telecommunications and digital services, providing a superior visitor experience thanks to the fastest network on earth.”

Innovative customer service strategy and adoption of the digital-first marketplace has been the key driver for Etisalat’s success and growth in leading the 5G revolution and the successful launch of global brand-building initiatives. Etisalat has tirelessly led digital innovation in the country by working on several digital initiatives in infrastructure, entertainment, and smart cities.

Etisalat’s vision to ‘Drive the digital future to empower societies’ brings it to the forefront of digital innovation in telecommunications

Etisalat launched a slew of services in the first quarter of 2021. “Striking the right partnerships with technology leaders and entrepreneurs in close partnership with government and private sector were key factors to push us to innovate and lead in this space,” Dowidar pointed out.

In February, Etisalat launched the Smiles food order and delivery services in the UAE as part of its effort to innovate and enhance customer experience. In April, Etisalat vowed to donate 5% of all food orders placed on its Smiles app, to UAE’s ‘100 Million Meals’ campaign.  The donations provided food parcels for disadvantaged individuals and families across 20 countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai honored Etisalat along with other contributors for its role in raising over Dh188 million from the humanitarian campaign. The ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ solutions will be led by entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by creating an abundance of opportunities in the UAE.

To ease the pain points of the SME sector in times of the pandemic, Etisalat partnered with Etihad Airways to provide mobile and digital solutions for the SMB and startup community. Under the agreement, Etihad and Etisalat aim to jointly design special products, offers, and activities that support SMB’s to start and grow their business with the latest innovative and convenient solutions.

Similarly, Etisalat’s Digital Financial Services (DFS) partnered with Al-Futtaim to enable secure and contactless payment options for eWallet customers across the country. Additionally, as part of its commitment to support and empower people of determination, Etisalat partnered with the Ministry of Community Development to launch a web extension to make accessing the web autistic friendly.  Etisalat collaborated with Brussels-based IT company Bliss to come up with a web extension aimed at empowering autistic people and personalizing their browsing experience.

Etisalat has been prominent in the growing global ecosystem of telecommunication with the rapid deployment of its 5G network that enables applications in areas such as AI, IoT, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). It strives to address Industry 4.0 opportunities to benefit enterprises from various technological use cases in areas such as energy, healthcare, education, transport, and entertainment, providing new revenue opportunities.

In the B2B segment, Etisalat has partnered with Nokia to launch a 5G network for enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) services, expand 5G coverage, and unlock new revenue opportunities. Under the arrangement, Nokia has deployed its AirScale radio platform, based on 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) standards, utilizing massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (ma-MIMO) radio technology.

To support next-gen networks, Etisalat and Cisco are building the region’s first open and autonomous, and secured network. Etisalat will leverage Cisco AI/ML automation to simplify Etisalat Emirates Internet Exchange (EMIX) operations with a set of innovative use cases aimed at providing intent-based and closed-loop automation solutions to the EMIX network.

Additionally, Etisalat Misr and Huawei completed the first VoLTE call using Huawei’s Virtual IMS which allow the Single Voice Core solution support for 2G/3G/LTE/5G/VoBB all in one core to avoid the complex integration, operations, and maintenance for the CS core and IMS coexistence.

Key investments for telecom infrastructure

The UAE was ranked first in the Gulf and the wider region on its telecom infrastructure, according to a United Nations (UN) e-government survey. The Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) previously mentioned that telecom operators in the country have allotted a huge budget for infrastructure investment, making the UAE’s infrastructure among the best in the world in terms of fiber optic services and overall network coverage.

Etisalat plays a major role in these investments. By being the first national telecom provider, initiator of the first rollout of commercial Internet services in the region, up to the first launch of commercial 5G in the region, Etisalat has been focused on establishing a well-connected network that could be the difference in achieving a long-lasting digital transformation.

In detail, the network coverage today reaches across the country with 4G LTE network coverage touching 99.70% and 3G covering 99.82%, while fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) has reached 95.7% of homes across the UAE. Along with this, network deployments in 5G reached over 35% covering the main cities in UAE.

The UAE, particularly Fujairah, is ranked as the biggest location for submarine landings in the region. Thus, Etisalat has invested in data centers to complement its telecom infrastructure called SmartHub. Known as the biggest carrier hotel, it minimizes latency and delivers outstanding end-user performance. Also, it includes direct access to a major cloud platform, Etisalat’s IP network, and the Middle East’s largest Internet Exchange.

Etisalat contributes to creating more value in the lives of customers and the growth of businesses with technologies such as 5G, AI, cloud, and blockchain

The Middle East is among the leading regions for digital transformation, and Etisalat contributes to this by focusing on creating more value in the lives of customers and the growth of businesses, as well as utilizing a combination of technologies such as 5G, AI, cloud, and blockchain in empowering digital societies.

Cloud and data centers are among the innovative solutions that Etisalat Digital has to offer. Providing traditional colocation and managed services for more than two decades, Etisalat’s cloud services have been operational for four years and are growing exponentially. It has 11 data centers within the UAE with 18,500 m2 of raised floor and 23 MW of power, with colocation services from six data centers in Dubai, three in Abu Dhabi, and one each in Al Ain and Fujairah that are mainly used for international carriers.

At Help AG, unmatched technical expertise and industry-leading cybersecurity solutions are made available. As Nicolai Solling, chief technology officer at Help AG explained in line with the State of the Market Report 2021, cybersecurity takes collaboration amongst all responsible actors in the government and private sectors. This is a must to improve the region’s digital security landscape.

Citing an example, the UAE Trade Connect (UTC) is a unique platform that will enable UAE banks and the supply chain industry to join the platform to combat fraud and duplication in the trade finance space. Banks such as Commercial Bank International (CBI), Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD), Emirates NBD, FAB, Mashreq Bank, National Bank of Fujairah (NBF), and Rakbank can send invoice information into a private permissioned blockchain network. This information is then run through Etisalat’s fraud detection system, which uses AI to check the authenticity of the invoice data.

At the same time, fostering informed decisions based on real-time information for business success, Etisalat’s IoT solutions have been strengthened through the partnership of Nokia and Mobily in deploying narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology across its infrastructure. More than 4,000 LTE base stations have been enabled to support enhanced NB-IoT cell connectivity. This will help businesses including energy, transport, and health to deliver improved customer experience through Mobily’s network.

“With communication and connectivity gaining more significance and demand more than ever during the pandemic, telcos play a critical role in closing this gap of digital readiness by becoming the engines of resilience and innovation. Moving ahead, network modernization and digital transformation play a key role in bringing this change to society,” Hatem Dowidar remarked.

Taking all this into consideration, the all-inclusive digital transformation provides the telecom industry with significant growth opportunities. Standing still as a leading telecom network, Etisalat serves as a backbone of the digital economy, bringing digital transformation and innovation across markets.

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