16/02/2012 13:34 AST

Zain Saudi Arabia “is still risky to invest”, Al Rajhi Capital said in a research released Wednesday.

It said that though Zain is performing decent as a number 3 operator, trying to tap the growth in voice and data services, “the problem for Zain is its high debt burden, which reduces the share of enterprise value attributable to equity shareholders.” It said Zain has been relying heavily on low-income groups to generate revenues.

However, the study expects mobile to continue to outperform fixed-line telecoms in Saudi Arabia over the next few years, driven by mobile data.

Zain has managed its SG&A costs and maintained a positive EBITDA, but it again reported net loss due to high financial costs on its massive debt, Al Rajhi Capital said.

“The key issue now for Zain is to plan out its restructuring smoothly as it’s hurting the company’s financials as well as morale,” it noted.

Accumulated losses have reached 69 percent of the paid up capital and thus restructuring is a necessity to avoid delisting. “With financial restructuring plans being worked out, we think investing in Zain is still risky. We retain our target price of SR6.0 but due to recent rally in the share price, we downgrade our rating to Underweight.”

Though the operating results just satisfactory, the EBITDA of SR260 million was close but below Al Rajhi Capital’s estimate of SR271 million.

The study further suggested that Zain needs to cut its accumulated losses and reduce net debt by about SR6 billion. “We believe that the restructuring will not only support Zain’s financials, but also improve the company’s damaged morale which has been reflected on its results. Once the restructuring gets completed, investors will hopefully be able to look at Zain afresh as a fast-growing operator,” it noted.

Zain has managed its SG&A costs and maintained a positive EBITDA, but it again reported net loss due to high financial costs on its massive debt. Accumulated losses have reached 69 percent of the paid up capital.

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