Mobinil boycott is 'damaging to Egypt': Chief executive

Bassem Abo Alabass, Thursday 4 Aug 2011

The country's largest mobile provider tells Ahram Online it predicts grim third quarter results in the wake of the cartoon controversy but is planning to strike back with a new campaign and fresh services

Mobinil Store
Company head appeals to patriotism after Egypt's largest mobile provider feels the financial heat (Photo: Reuters)
The chief executive of embattled mobile services giant Mobinil says an Islamist-led boycott against the firm is damaging to Egypt as a whole.
"If you are a patriot and you love Egypt then you shouldn't be boycotting a company like Mobinil, especially when that has an impact on the 5,000 Egyptians who work there," Hassan Kabbani, Mobinil's chief executive, told Ahram Online.
In late June, Mobinil's founder Naguib Sawaris was accused of mocking Islam after tweeting a cartoon of Mickey and Minnie Mouse dressed in conservative Muslim attire. 
The image was already widely circulated online but the telecom tycoon's reposting sparked angry reactions with tens of thousands of Egyptians taking to social media to condemn Sawiris and demand a boycott of his companies.
Mobinil stock has lost about 25 per cent of its value, falling to LE40 per share, since the controversy began.
Mobinil, Egypt's largest mobile provider by subscriptions, said this week it expects its third quarter results to show the impact of losing "hundreds of thousands of subscribers."
The firm, jointly owned by Sawiris' Orascom Telecom and France Telecom, recorded 30.54 million subscribers during the second quarter of 2011.
Speaking to Ahram Online, Kabbani accused competitors of taking advantage of Mobinil's current situation to attract more customers.
"There is an unfortunate mixing of politics, religion and business in Egypt," said Kabbani. "People should know that Mobinil is a business that doesn't get involved in the first two arenas."
Mobinil is preparing a new campaign to address the boycott and plans new commercial activities to mitigate its impact, Kabbani said.  
"We will come back bigger and better than before," he vowed, expressing hopes that third quarter losses would be balanced by full-year results.
A note from Beltone Financial on Thursday said it had already predicted Mobinil's subscribers would fluctuate and impact revenues due to the introduction of mobile number portability between networks. The investment bank said it would shortly issue a revised forecast reflecting the boycott.
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