Egypt's Mobinil says customer boycott subsides

Reuters, Sunday 16 Oct 2011

Company says it recovered from backlash it suffered after its founder posted a Cartoon deemed offensive to some conservatives

A man walks past a Mobinil branch in downtown Cairo (Photo: Reuters)


The number of subscribers cancelling their Mobinil subscriptions has tumbled from a peak earlier this year when some customers took offence at a cartoon posted online by the company's founder, its chairman said on Sunday.

The Egyptian mobile company suffered a boycott after Christian business tycoon and politician Naguib Sawiris tweeted a cartoon of Mickey Mouse with a long beard and Minnie Mouse veiled in black in June.

Some customers took it as an offence to Islam.

"Certainly the impact of the tweet has diminished drastically since the peak," Mobinil Chairman Alex Shalaby told Reuters. "We will feel it in this quarter which will be announced shortly."

He said the number of "porting out" requests by subscribers reached around 20,000 a day at the peak of the boycott, compared to 1,000 or less per day before the incident.

"Today we are way below that figure, a fraction of that figure for sure," said Shalaby.

Mobinil, a venture of Sawiris's Orascom Telecom and France Telecom , competes with Vodafone's Egyptian unit and Etisalat Misr , the Egyptian arm of Abu Dhabi-based telecoms group Etisalat .

Shalaby, speaking at the launch of an initiative to give users better access to government services, said Mobinil was "fully ready" to begin talks with the government to bring fourth-generation (4G) telecommunication services to the country.

The number of mobile phone users in Egypt grew to 78 million at the end of July from 71 million at the end of 2010 but analysts say the market is reaching saturation and providers need to focus on data services to keep revenues expanding.

Egypt suffered a sudden exodus of investors in the wake of the uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak and many are hesitant to return.

Shalaby said Egypt's interim government needed to boost security on the streets and more actively engage in dialogue with the private sector to improve the investment climate.

"(The main step) is security, to give confidence to investors that Egypt is secure, that the streets of Egypt are secure, that the rule of law prevails," Shalaby said.  

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