* Sudatel sees 35 pct growth in subscribers by 2020-CEO
* Expects 5-10 pct profit growth in 2015 over 2014
* Plans dividends for shareholders
By Stanley Carvalho
ABU DHABI, May 12 (Reuters) - Sudan Telecommunications Group (Sudatel) plans to invest $267 million up to 2020 to transform the country’s telecoms sector and grow its subscriber base, its chief executive told Reuters on Tuesday.
“There will be a complete transformation from mobile to ICT (Information, Communications & Technology) and we are investing in strong fibre optic networks and broadband to achieve our goals,” Tarig Zainelabdein said on the sidelines of a Sudan-United Arab Emirates (UAE) investment forum.
Some 30 percent of the investment will come from equity and the rest from bank loans, mainly Arab and Chinese banks, he said.
Sudatel, listed in Khartoum and Abu Dhabi is aiming to grow its subscriber base — domestic and overseas — by 35 percent over the next five years to over 16 million from the current 12 million.
Last year, its subscriber base grew by 10 percent after dropping by 3 percent during 2011-13, Zainelabdein said, predicting half the projected subscriber growth would come from Sudan and the rest from other African markets.
Sudatel is a telecoms operator in Mauritania, Senegal, Ghana and Guinea Conakry.
Faced with losses over the last three to four years in Ghana, Sudatel plans to exit that market fully by the end of this year, having sold 18 percent of shares to an unnamed buyer.
“There were losses and the competition is high there and by end-2015, we will transfer the remaining shares to a buyer,” he said, declining to elaborate.
Sudatel, which trimmed losses from $46 million in 2012 to $17 million in 2013, swung to a $50 million profit in 2014 and expects 5-10 percent profit growth in 2015, Zainelabdein said.
The firm made a net profit of $10 million in the first quarter of 2015 and will be announcing dividends to shareholders, its first in three years, at the general assembly later this month.
Currently, overseas operations contribute some 30 percent of Sudatel’s revenues while 70 percent come from its domestic market.
“We are aiming for 50:50 revenues from local and overseas markets by 2020,” Zainelabdein said, adding the firm was looking at entering new markets in Africa where mobile penetration is low.
Sudatel is owned 30 percent by the government and 21 percent by local Sudanese investors. The remaining 49 percent is held by foreign investors, led by UAE investors. (Editing by Mark Potter)