Zain Group CEO Bader Al-Kharafi (pictured) hailed heavy infrastructure investments and organisational changes for preparing the company to commercialise 5G, though currency issues continued to take a bite out of its bottom-line in Q4 2018.

In its financial results statement, Al-Kharafi said Zain had created a foundation to deliver 5G and the interconnectivity to power the fourth industrial revolution in its markets.

During 2018, he noted, the company made significant progress in “optimising synergies” within the group and made a number of large investments. Last year it continued to build out its fibre footprint and made other network upgrades, spending a total of $750 million including spectrum fees.

Al-Kharafi said organisational changes were: “Geared towards making us a more agile operator that can reap the lucrative opportunities in the digital space and move quickly in the face of the sweeping changes in the ICT sector.”

Zain’s chairman Ahmed Al Tahous added the company had also been supported by favourable decisions by authorities in its key markets.

Across its operations, Zain booked a Q4 jump in net income of 59 per cent year-on-year to KWD59 million ($194 million), on consolidated revenue of KWD411 million. Comparisons with 2017 were impacted by the inclusion of Zain Saudi Arabia into group results from Q3 2018.

The company pointed to strong profit growth in its divisions in Iraq and Kuwait, while noting its Sudan operation had “performed exceptionally well” in local currency terms. Sudan is in the midst of an economic crisis with the currency 60 per cent lower against the US dollar in Q4 2018 than in Q4 2017, which has taken its toll on Zain’s bottom-line in recent quarters.

Zain said the impact of foreign exchange fluctuations across its footprint cost it $78 million in revenue and $10 million in net income in Q4 2018.