Cartoon boycott is not at all funny for Mobinil

Egyptian telecoms companies hit by US downgrade and boycott on Mobinil over offensive cartoons.

A customer boycott over "offensive" cartoons has hit the Egyptian telecommunications operator Mobinil, which yesterday saw a 4 per cent decline in its share price during trading in Cairo.

Naguib Sawiris, a billionaire major shareholder in Mobinil, earlier this year broadcast a cartoon via the social networking site Twitter, which many Egyptians deemed offensive.

Objections to the cartoon triggered calls for a boycott of the operator in June. Mobinil said last Thursday it expected its third-quarter results to be adversely affected by the incident, having lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers due to the boycott.

Analysts said that was a "plausible" reason for Sunday's decline in Mobinil's share price, which fell 4.03 per cent to 99.23 Egyptian pounds.

"The effect of this boycott is likely to be one of the main reasons behind the share-price falls," said Matthew Reed, an analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

"The boycott has only gained momentum relatively recently," he added.

Orascom Telecom, which jointly owns Mobinil with France Telecom, also fell in yesterday's trading, closing down 6.8 per cent at 3.45 Egyptian pounds.

"Mobinil is one of the most valuable assets for Orascom Telecom," said Mr Reed.

The news came despite positive data on telecoms subscribers in Egypt.

The number of mobile-phone subscriptions in the country rose to 74.77 million in May, up 28 per cent compared with the same period last year, according to government figures released on Saturday.

The effect of the US ratings downgrade weighed heavily on Egypt's benchmark EGX 30 Index, which closed down 4.18 per cent at 4,798.27.

 

bflanagan@thenational.ae

Published: August 8, 2011 04:00 AM

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