MANAMA : Batelco Group yesterday said financials for last year were positively boosted by its overseas operations. For the year ended December 31 , the group reported net profit of BD43.6m ( $115.6m ) as against BD60.3m for 2012, a decrease of 28 per cent year-on-year and 40pc quarter-on-quarter. The regional telecommunications group has operations across 14 countries. Profits for the year were impacted by a number of one-off expenses including those associated with the Islands Portfolio acquisition in a deal finalised in April last year. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) for the year was $320.2m , representing a healthy margin of 33pc, versus EBITDA of $270m and a margin of 33pc for 2012. The increase in EBITDA was attributed to the positive impact of Batelco Group's overseas operations and improved performance in the home market. Similarly, EBITDA increased by 3pc compared to the third quarter. The group's gross revenues stood at $983m for the year versus $808.2m in the previous year, an increase of 22pc year-on-year and a 1pc decrease since last quarter. In line with the group's continued diversification, 54pc of revenues and 50pc of EBITDA are now generated from markets outside Bahrain where the group continues to focus on strengthening its performance and reach. The group ended the year with a strong balance sheet and financial position. As of December 31 , net assets were $1,573.2m with substantial cash and bank balances of $526.8m and net debt of $116.7m . In November last year, Batelco commenced a buyback of its $650m seven year Reg S bond offering, with $39.5m repurchased as of December 31 . The bond buyback offers Batelco the opportunity to deploy excess liquidity in realising interest savings and managing debt levels. The group also reported that the board would recommend a full year cash dividend of $84.1m , at a value of 20 fils per share, of which 10 fils per share was already paid during the third quarter with the remaining 10 fils to be paid in cash following the annual general meeting in March. In addition, the board will also recommend a 5pc bonus share issue, awarding one extra share for every 20 shares currently held. "Last year was marked by strong cash generation and growing customer numbers across the group, mainly attributable to the inclusion of our new Island Portfolio businesses," Batelco Group chairman Shaikh Hamad bin Abdulla Al Khalifa said. "Diversification has been central to the company's strategy for a number of years and we are very pleased to see our investments deliver in line with our expectations," he said. The company has been continuing with its restructuring and cost rationalisation programme announced in 2012. "We look forward to reaping the benefits of this exercise which will help us to further strengthen our performance and financial results as we go forward," he added. The company's strategy and ongoing efforts, said Shaikh Hamad , was to achieve operational excellence and growth ensuring shareholders were provided with "some of the highest dividend yields in our industry region-wide". "We are confident that the fruits of our acquisition, which have been accretive from the outset, will continue to help further bolster profitability and our ability to deliver the best value for shareholders," Shaikh Hamad added. The group's total subscriber base has grown to 9m across the 14 geographies of the expanded operation, representing 18pc growth year-on-year. Mobile subscriber numbers grew 18pc year-on-year and 2pc quarter-on-quarter. This increase was supported by strong performance in Bahrain , Jordan and Yemen as well as across the new joint ventures. Broadband customers for the year increased by 26pc year-on-year and by 2pc since the third quarter with results supported by progress in Jordan . Additionally, fixed line subscribers have risen by 39pc year-on-year, again boosted by the addition of the Island Portfolio. "Among our plans this year is the roll out of superfast 4G LTE for four of our new operations, Dhiraagu and SURE Telecom in Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man," the chairman said. "This is in line with our strategy to extend our expertise across the entire group to deliver greater benefits for our customers wherever they may live," he added. He said the executive search for a new group chief executive was ongoing and the supervisory committee of the board, consisting of deputy chairman Murad Ali Murad , executive committee chairman Abdul Razak Al Qassim and director Waleed Alkhaja , would continue to execute the role on a temporary basis until the new chief was appointed. "We have entered the year in a strong financial position. Our growth last year positions us as one of the most important organisations in Bahrain and the kingdom's largest shareholding company. "We remain focused on our customers at home and overseas to ensure our provisioning exceeds their expectations. "We also remain focussed on strengthening our performance to better serve all Batelco Group stakeholders," he added.
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