* Q2 net profit 1.9 bln dirhams vs 1.59 bln dirhams a yr ago
* Q2 revenue 8.3 bln dirhams, up 4 pct
* Telco to focus on high growth, populous mkts in Saudi, Asia, Africa (Adds details)
DUBAI, July 25 (Reuters) - Etisalat, the Gulf’s No.2 telecoms operator, posted a 17-percent rise in quarterly profits on Wednesday, topping forecasts, and said it would shift its focus to high growth, populous markets in the Arab world, Africa, Asia to drive revenues.
The Abu Dhabi-based operator, which operates in 17 countries, saw higher revenue from its international operations partly offset slipping local business.
Etisalat second-quarter net profit of 1.9 billion dirhams ($517.28 million) in the three months to June 30, up from 1.59 billion dirhams in the year-earlier period.
Analysts forecast average profit of 1.78 billion dirhams, in a Reuters poll.
Quarterly revenue rose 4 percent to 8.3 billion dirhams from 7.93 billion dirhams a year ago.
The former monopoly reported a 0.4-percent drop in revenue from its home market over last year while sales from overseas operations rose 14 percent to 2.3 billion dirhams.
“Following the industry trend to invest in overseas markets over the past decade, we are now focusing on creating value in high population, high growth markets such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Etisalat chairman Eissa al-Suwaidi said in the statement.
Etisalat has reported declining profits in eight of the previous nine quarters as rival du, which ended its domestic monopoly in 2007, won market share. At the same time, the telco’s subscriber growth stagnated and its foreign operations failed to add much to the bottom line.
Earlier this month, the government overhauled Etisalat’s board and replaced its long-time chairman in a sign of growing royal dissatisfaction with the operator’s performance.
About 89 percent of the UAE’s population are expatriates and the surging use of internet-based phone services has also hurt Etisalat’s lucrative international calls business. ($1 = 3.6730 UAE dirhams) (Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Amran Abocar)