Vodafone Qatar’s loss narrows as it cuts low-margin services

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Men walk past a Vodafone-Qatar Telecommunication office in Doha October 22, 2009. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad

Vodafone Qatar VFQS.QA reported a narrowing second-quarter loss on Tuesday, halting a run of disappointing earnings performances as the affiliate of Vodafone Group (VOD.L) cut low-earning services.

The operator made a net loss of 64 million riyals (14 million pounds) in the three months to Sept. 30, according to a bourse filing.

That compares with a loss of 113.6 million riyals in the prior-year period, and the forecast of a 94 million riyal loss from Arqaam Capital.

Vodafone Qatar, which uses a financial year starting on April 1, has yet to make a quarterly net profit since ending state-controlled Ooredoo’s ORDS.QA domestic monopoly in 2009.

The firm’s losses had widened in the six quarters to March 31, 2016, as Ooredoo slashed prices and fought hard to bolster its revenue share.

Vodafone Qatar arrested this trend with a flat net loss in the first quarter. The operator confirmed in July that it had reduced headcount by 10 percent in May, with some job cuts permanent and other positions to be reassigned to roles aimed at boosting mobile revenue streams.

The company has “ceased activities and selling products which generated little or no margin”, Chief Executive Ian Gray said in a statement.

Along with a reduction in regulated telecom rates on which it did not elaborate, this contributed to a decrease of 5.4 percent in quarterly revenue to 499 million riyals, while the operator’s customer base shrank 1.9 percent year-on-year to stand at 1.46 million as it disconnected nearly 85,000 lines.

Despite this, its post-pay customer base – traditionally people with higher incomes – jumped 27.9 percent year on year.

The company made a half-year net loss of 163.5 million riyals compared with a 213.5 riyals loss in the year-ago period.

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell and David French; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)