Jassem Mohamed AlzaabiChairman
“We have witnessed a defining moment in our Company’s history as we transformed from Etisalat Group to e& - a global technology conglomerate.”
We have witnessed a defining moment in our Company’s history as we transformed from Etisalat Group to e& - a global technology conglomerate that creates limitless possibilities built on solid connections, smart connectivity and fruitful collaborative opportunities.
Moreover, 2021 has been a year like no other. The Group celebrated multiple milestones, witnessed remarkable achievements, and saw a record financial performance, all of which are setting us up for an even brighter digital future.
The digital revolution spurred by the pandemic does not show signs of slowing down. Telecommunication operators are faced with two choices: continue to stay still and offer the same services or step up and innovate to ensure business continuity and, more importantly, witness growth.
We seized every opportunity to leverage our telecom experience for developing next-generation technologies for the benefit of our customers, the communities we serve and the world. Our financial performance and historical accolades are proof of it. Our market cap is at an all-time high, and we have one of the most advanced and fastest networks in the world. Given the UAE’s standing as a global leader in Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) penetration, we have also been crowned the world’s strongest telecom brand and have topped the Forbes MENA top 10 list of most valuable listed companies in the UAE.
Enhanced value creation
At this defining juncture, I am pleased to report that in terms of consolidated revenue, we have delivered strong top line growth of 3.2% and have enjoyed a consolidated net profit of AED 9.3 billion. In addition, our international markets have seen consistent revenue growth. The strong performance that we have seen across the Group demonstrates our robust business model, a strong vision and purpose.
More importantly, our share price performance has been unprecedented. We were in a strong position to create shareholder value where the record share price and market cap were supported by the rising EPS for the first time to AED 1.07. The share price saw an 88% jump to AED 31.7 while the market cap (USD/billion) touched 75 in comparison to 40 in 2020.
As we advance into a promising future, we will ramp up our efforts and reaffirm our determination to accomplish more for the benefit of our shareholders and customers alike.
Strategy building blocks that enable a future-ready business model
We are confident in leading the digitalisation agenda. We are creating a future-ready business model that celebrates our past and embraces the opportunities ahead of us through our main business pillars.
Our core telecoms business will continue to operate, led by Etisalat UAE in our home market and by our existing subsidiaries for our international operations, upholding the Group’s rich telecom heritage, bolstering our strong telecom network and maximising value for our various customer segments. As the growth engine of the Group, we have great plans to expand into new geographic markets while continuing to drive operational performance in the 16 markets where we operate.
e& life is focused on enhancing customer delight by becoming an integral part of their lives. The business pillar has already made robust plans to become the leading consumer ecosystem player that will bring the world to its customers’ fingertips through smart connectivity platforms in entertainment, retail, and financial services.
e& enterprise will be the driving force behind the digital transformation of governments, corporates and enterprises. Through its breakthrough technology solutions in cybersecurity, cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), as well as deploying mega projects, e& enterprise will create real business value as it continues to leverage its expertise as a digital managed company having the strength and reach of a global trusted telecommunications partner.
e& capital will act as a pillar for growth for the Group as it drives new acquisitions and mergers in line with its vision for investing in ideas that creates the future. We can do this by being laser-focussed on maximising shareholder value and infrastructure capabilities while strengthening our global presence.
We will refresh the Group’s business pillars in alignment with our objectives for geographical expansion, deeper market penetration, profitable ventures and acquisitions, as well as exploring adjacencies to boost business growth.
Leading change for growth
We recognise the length, breadth, and depth that we are willing to traverse in order to navigate the promising realms of technology, maintain our flexibility and capabilities to explore new possibilities.
We must, at all times, stay true to our vision for e& to ‘make possible’: drive a brighter digital future to empower societies, accelerating value generation through innovation and digitalisation.
I envisage the foundations for our future growth to arise from a position of leadership, maximising the value of our UAE operations, expanding regional footprint leadership and growing our digital adjacencies. Last, but not least, we must stay the course with our ambitions for sustained value creation by driving smart investments in both the telecommunications and digital arena by optimising our organic and inorganic growth models.
I’d like to close by thanking the UAE leadership for inspiring us through their vision as we continue to go from strength to strength. It is an honour to be empowered as an organisation to amplify our growth prospects, charter our course into a more holistic digital transformation, and build a new reality for all of us through next-generation connectivity and cutting edge technologies
I’d also like to extend my gratitude to the entire e& workforce, who continue to make us proud at every step of the way.
Our collaborative spirit continues to shine through, thanks to our customers and stakeholders as we move forward with our mission to pioneer broad-spectrum technologies, build breakthrough partnerships and uncover opportunities that will change the world.
As we work together towards a bright digital future, I am confident that we will continue to achieve extraordinary results through our robust transformation plans.
Hatem DowidarGroup Chief Executive Officer
Group CEO’s Message
“We witnessed an outstanding year due to our collective efforts to maximise value from the core business, solidify our leadership in our footprint, and grow adjacencies both organically and through acquisitions”
This has been an exceptional year. We delivered robust financial performance and business growth across all our operations during 2021.
We are at the dawn of a new and exciting chapter in our Group’s growth journey to create a bright, digital future that empowers individuals and societies. I am proud of how far we have come in 2021, and I look forward to yet another fruitful year ahead.
Throughout 2021, the Group connected more individuals, businesses, and societies and provided more digital services than ever before. If 2020 was primarily about delivering on our commitment to our customers and maintaining the resilience of our networks, 2021 was mainly about restructuring our operations to become more agile, more competitive, and more responsive to customer needs. We partnered with governments and enterprises to deploy large scale projects (megaprojects) and rolled out cyber-security, cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) services. We built reliable infrastructure and developed rich ecosystems that enabled innovation and entrepreneurship. This was made possible thanks to our people who have demonstrated what truly matters for telecommunications and technology companies – keeping individuals, businesses and societies connected while delivering an outstanding customer experience and continuously innovating in technology and services.
Embracing the new normal in the digital age
The Group is accelerating its transformation into a customer-centric, digitally-driven global technology conglomerate. We are building on our successes in ideating, designing, and executing digital solutions for businesses, governments, and individuals, forging strategic partnerships, and attracting the best talent in our footprint and beyond. For decades, we have been leaders in bringing the latest technology to the public. In recent years, we have been reliable partners for entrepreneurs and innovators while never faltering as reliable partners for economic and business development to governments and stakeholders.
Celebrating strong business performance
We achieved a strong business performance in 2021 alongside multiple achievements. e& is now the strongest telecom brand in the world, the first telecom brand from MEA to achieve this accolade. Such recognition is a fine demonstration of our resilience when we work together to fuel our ambitions while empowering societies. We also witnessed an outstanding year for the Group due to our collective efforts to maximise value from the core telecommunications business, expand and solidify our leadership in our footprint and the region, and grow adjacencies both organically and through acquisitions.
Here are some highlights of our financial results.
Consolidated revenues for the Group increased by 3.2% to AED 53.3 billion. Consolidated Net Profit amounted to AED 9.3 billion, representing a 3.2% increase YoY. Consolidated EBITDA amounted to AED 26.7 billion, representing a YoY increase of 1.0% and resulting in an EBITDA margin of 50.1%.
Across our footprint, we have shown strong financial performance compared with 2020 despite persistent challenges in the markets in which we operate, including stringent regulatory measures and uneven recovery rates from the COVID-19 pandemic. The robust revenue growth was attributed to recovery in the UAE and continued improvement in international operations.
We witnessed a strong, double-digit revenue growth of 21% by Etisalat Misr. PTCL Group operations experienced revenue growth of 6% across all segments.
e&’s ESG rating was upgraded from BBB to A by MSCI Global Index after we launched the sustainability framework and enhanced policies in line with international best practices, including implementing a Gender Equity Framework in benefits in the UAE.
Finally, e& has accelerated its plans to decarbonise activities by reducing GHG by 2030. We will continue our efforts to provide safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible products and services that help mitigate climate change.
Realising our aspirations through our main business pillars
Our achievements in 2021 are clear indicators that we are well-placed to realign our business operations by evolving into e&. The creation of specialist business pillars – Telecoms, e& life, e& enterprise, and e& capital – will best serve our customer segments and shareholders by upholding our reputation as the shapers of the future and enablers of societal progress.
We are ready to hyperscale, operate in new geographies, build a unique network of partnerships, refine our business models, and diversify our revenue streams to add more value.
We are pursuing new, fast-growing business models in the digital space for both our consumer and enterprise segments for further accelerated growth. We will implement the next phase of the core transformation of our Etisalat UAE operations by delivering an outstanding digital customer experience.
Confidence in a brighter digital future
As we place digitalisation and next-generation technologies at the core of our business moving forward, we will meld e&’s telecoms and technology capabilities for the benefit of all our stakeholders. We will move at full throttle to take advantage of value-adding partnerships and fruitful ventures. We are ready to bring the full potential of the digital world to our customers across all segments.
The e& Group and I are grateful to the UAE Leadership for inspiring us to reach new heights and for its unwavering support in our transformation into a Group that is digitally fit for the future. We are also grateful to our investors, shareholders and customers as they continue to trust in our vision and our ability to deliver on this vision.
We will continue to move onward and upward, expanding into new technologies and maintaining our competitiveness as a global technology and investment conglomerate.
Karim BennisGroup Chief Financial Officer
Group CFO’s Review
“We focused on improving efficiencies and increasing value to customers and shareholders.”
Net Profit(AED million)
Demonstrating our unique market proposition, financial strength and operational resilience, e& accelerated its strategic growth journey this year, achieving significant milestones in profitability, market cap and brand value, while overcoming the continued challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic across our markets to position the Group for continued growth and shareholder value creation in the coming years.
During a year of recovery in the UAE market and continued growth in our international markets, e& was once again recognised as the leading operator in the world in terms of mobile network performance demonstrating our commitment to offering the latest technologies, building the best quality networks, and providing superior customer experience across our footprint.
This strong performance supported an improved revenue trend in the UAE and sustained growth momentum in our international operations, driving an increase in the Group’s consolidated revenue of 3.2% in 2021 to reach AED 53.3 billion.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing changes in the revenue mix continued to weigh down our operations and results, particularly in terms of softer mobile revenue due to reduced roaming and increased penetration of VoIP applications, as well as an overall reduction of economic activity across our markets.
However, our disciplined and agile financial approach ensured improvement in EBITDA while sustaining a strong 50.1% margin, considered among the highest in the industry, through focused cost optimisation efforts, driving increased profitability and earnings. Accordingly, net profit increased by 3.2%, reaching AED 9.3 billion at a net profit margin of 17%.
During this eventful year, we also increased the foreign ownership limit in our share capital to 49%. This resulted in our weights in key indices being upgraded, spurring significant inflows to Etisalat Group’s share. Complementing our strong performance and growth potential, this triggered a consistent increase in market capitalisation of 88% year on year, to end 2021 as one of the top ten telcos worldwide.
Reflecting this success and the Group’s commitment to shareholder return, e&’s Board of Directors rewarded its shareholders by recommending a dividend per share of 80 fils for the year 2021, resulting in total shareholder return of approximately 95%.
Diversification driving growth and profitability
A reflection of the strength of e&’s diversified portfolio built over the last few years, we achieved a resilient set of results and business growth across our markets. Group consolidated revenue recovered following the disruption faced in 2020, supported by improved operating environments in some of our key markets in 2021.
Consolidated revenues for the year totalled AED 53.3 billion, up 3.2%, reflecting an improved revenue trend in our UAE operations and a rise in international revenue of 6.7%, due in large part to the strong performance of Etisalat Misr attributed to the growing demand of mobile broadband, improvement in the fixed and mobile broadband in Pakistan, and growth in the international markets of Maroc Telecom Group.
Group consolidated EBITDA for 2021 increased to AED 26.7 billion, resulting in an EBITDA margin of 50.1%, despite the unfavourable changes in the revenue mix; adjusting for a non-recurring item in Morocco last year, EBITDA increased by 1.7% and margin declined by 0.7 points.
Embedded across the Group’s operations and corporate culture, cost optimisation programmes continued to create value during 2021, looking for new ways to improve efficiencies or reduce costs to deliver increasing value to customers and shareholders. COVID-19 magnified the importance of these optimisation programmes, given some operational and financial uncertainties. e& used the momentum to further improve efficiency by adopting new operating models including remote working to drive savings in travel, utilities, training, and other administrative costs. The Group continues to enhance its processes through utilising group synergies and digital transformation, which will fuel investments and new revenue streams to drive future growth.
Overall, we delivered a healthy growth in net profits, which rose by 3.2% to reach AED 9.3 billion for the year, while earnings per share amounted to AED 1.07 in 2021, an increase of 3.2% compared to the previous year.
This increase in Group profitability was driven by several factors, including our focus on core revenue that continues to make up a sizeable part of our revenue; leveraging our networks and capabilities to grow new revenue streams; strong focus on cost optimisation efforts, without hampering the growth potential of new revenue streams; higher contributions from key associates; and lower net finance and other costs due to optimised debt profile, following the refinancing of our maturing bonds.
Robust balance sheet and cash flow
Continuously strengthening our balance sheet and ensuring the strong financial position of our Group remains a key priority. During 2021, we maintained high liquidity supported by our strong cash flow generation that resulted in a cash balance of AED 28.6 billion at year end, providing a unique net cash position for our industry and great financial flexibility moving forward.
Consolidated capital expenditure (CAPEX) increased by 17.9% in 2021 to reach AED 8.4 billion, resulting in a capital intensity ratio of 15.7%, two percentage points higher than in 2020. Capital spending was driven by spectrum acquisition in Pakistan and Egypt and ongoing network modernisation in several markets, including: 5G rollout in the UAE, fibre investments in Morocco and Pakistan, and networks coverage and expansion in Egypt and international subsidiaries of Maroc Telecom. Excluding the spectrum and license acquisitions in Pakistan, Egypt and Mauritania, capital expenditure increased by 8.5% year on year and capital intensity ratio by 0.6%. Operating free cash flow, excluding spectrum, remained strong and slightly decreased by 1.3% year over year to AED 19.7 billion with FCF margin at almost 37% of revenue.
Total consolidated debt amounted to AED 25.7 billion as of 31 December 2021, as compared to AED 26.7 billion as of end 2020, a drop of AED 1.0 billion due to the Group’s improved debt profile. During 2021, we capitalised on the favourable capital market conditions to issue new bonds of EUR 1.0 billion, consisting of two tranches, under the General Medium Term Note (GMTN) programme established in 2014. The proceeds were used to refinance our maturing EUR 1.2 billion bond, which was six times over-subscribed and will deliver solid interest cost savings during the bond tenure. As of 31 December 2021, the Group had a strong net cash position of AED 2.8 billion.
e&’s credit ratings continue to be one of the highest in the telecom sector (AA- by S&P Global and Aa3 by Moody’s, with stable outlook), reflecting the Group’s robust balance sheet, its proven long-term performance, and its strong cash flow generation.
Growing subscribers, brand value and market share
In a year of significant milestones for e&, we were recognised as the strongest telecom brand in the world by Brand Finance. We are the first and only telecom brand from the MENA region to achieve this global recognition. With a combined brand value of e&’s portfolio valued at well over USD 12.5 billion, rising 16% in 2021, we remain the most valuable telecoms brand portfolio in the region.
Our subscriber base continued to grow during 2021, as we remained focused on bringing in high-quality net adds, a key component in helping us continue to deliver solid year-over-year revenue growth. By year-end, e&’s aggregate number of subscribers reached 159 million, representing a 3% increase compared to 2020, mainly due to subscriber growth in high value segments in both the domestic and international operations.
These achievements, as well as our surge in market cap during the year, reflect our undisputed leadership position in our domestic UAE market, where we enjoy value share of 67% of Mobile and 80% of Fixed, as well as our international footprint where we have either number one or number two position in terms of value share in 12 out of the 15 markets.
Our acquisition of elGrocer, a leading UAE grocery delivery platform, enhanced Etisalat UAE’s ability to offer value added services to its customers. We increased our ownership in Digital Financial Services by fully acquiring the business, as part of e&’s strategy and digital ambitions in accelerating efforts in mobile financial services in the UAE to meet the growing consumer demands.
In February 2022, we announced a partnership with ADQ, Alpha Dhabi Holding and First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) to launch a next generation digital banking platform ‘Wio’, a unique and exciting opportunity to invest in the growing digital banking sector while leveraging synergies in this space.
Meanwhile, across our international footprint, our stake increase in Etisalat Investment North Africa (EINA) will improve our net profitability, as it will increase our ownership in Maroc Telecom Group by 4.7% to 53%. Maroc Telecom Group, a leading telecom group in North and Sub-Saharan Africa with a high profitability margin and cash flow generation and a key asset in our international portfolio.
In the year ahead, we will continue to pursue our Vision to “Drive the Digital Future to Empower Societies.” We will continue to invest in networks that are critical to connecting our customers and vital to the development of the economies within our footprint, while seeking both organic and inorganic revenue growth across our markets.
The fundamentals of our key markets remain robust, and the profound digital shift promises a new era of digital growth and outstanding opportunities for our Group. We intend to leverage the full potential of the digital capabilities we have been building to improve and strengthen our market positioning in the region and capture further growth opportunities.