February 9, 2015 / 6:32 AM / 3 years ago

Saudi Mobily's acting CEO says to stay at least until March-end

DUBAI, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Mobily's acting chief executive told Reuters he had a mandate to run the troubled Saudi Arabian telecommunications operator until the end of March, when its board and shareholders would decide what to do next.

Serkan Okandan was appointed deputy CEO in October, weeks before Mobily announced a shock earnings restatement that slashed its profits for 2013 and the first half of 2014 by a combined 1.43 billion riyals ($381 million) due to an accounting error, and ultimately led to the suspension of CEO Khalid al-Kaf.

Okandan, who is also chief financial officer of Mobily's biggest shareholder, United Arab Emirates-based Etisalat , took temporary charge in late November.

"My mandate is until end-March. Beyond this date, (the) board and shareholders will decide the way forward," Okandan said in an emailed response to questions from Reuters.

Mobily reported a 71 percent drop in third-quarter profit before announcing a surprise fourth-quarter loss of 2.28 billion riyals last month.

The company's share price reached an eight-year high of 98.25 riyals last May, but ended Sunday at 38.40 riyals as analysts slashed their valuations of the stock and investor confidence evaporated.

"All competitive companies focus on improving efficiencies. Mobily is and will do the same," Okandan wrote.

"We are focusing on how to improve our cost structure not only by doing the same in a more efficient manner, but also being innovative. We are confident our shareholders will enjoy better results in the coming quarters."

Etisalat, the UAE's top telecommunications operator by subscribers and its largest listed company by market value, owns 27.5 percent of Mobily. (Reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

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