One of the first tasks facing the new chief executive of Etisalat will be to identify growth spots across its vast overseas operations say analysts.
Etisalat Group has appointed Saleh Abdullah Al Abdooli as chief executive after a four-year stint running the group’s UAE operations.
Mr Al Abdooli replaced Hatem Dowidar, who was appointed as an acting CEO this month, the company said. Ahmad Julfar, the former chief executive, left the company for personal reasons on March 10.
“The majority of Etisalat’s international operations are facing increasing competitive pressures, regulatory risks and pressure on domestic currency,” said Nishit Lakhotia, the head of research at Securities & Investment Company (Sico) in Bahrain.
“So the key challenge will be to safeguard and improve profitability, restructure operations and identify growth areas in each operation, especially in Africa, Egypt and Pakistan.”
Born in 1963, Mr Al Abdooli joined Etisalat in 1992 after completing his master’s degree in telecommunications from the University of Colorado at Boulder in the US.
From 2007 to 2012, Mr Al Abdooli was the CEO of Etisalat Egypt. He also led Etisalat's UAE operations from 2012 until 2016, before his current post as group chief executive.
“Under Abdooli’s leadership Etisalat UAE has done very well and remains the most important operations for the group,” said Mr Lakhotia.
“It’s therefore not very surprising that he has been tasked to lead the group into the next phase of growth and try and replicate the success of the domestic operations at the group level.”
Matthew Reed, a principal analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media in Dubai, said that the challenges that Etisalat and its new CEO face include the difficult macro-economic situation that is currently affecting much of the group’s operations, and adapting through some diversification into new business areas.
Mr Al Abdooli played a significant part in the company’s international expansion. He led the technical committee that prepared for Etisalat’s GSM Network in Zanzibar, the company’s first network outside the UAE.
He also had a similar role for Etisalat’s operations in Sudan and Afghanistan. Mr Al Abdooli served as chairman of the committee that prepared Etisalat’s proposal to set up the second network in Saudi Arabia, a contract that won other bids from Vodafone, Telephonica and TIM & MTC.
During his time in Egypt, Mr Al Abdooli led Etisalat Egypt to success by gaining a significant market, despite being a late entrant.
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