Mauritius Telecom profit down 5%, listing still on

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

Mauritius Telecom said 2008 post-tax profit fall 5 percent to 1.9 billion rupees ($59 million) on increased interest payments. Mauritius Telecom, which dominates the fixed line and mobile markets and is a leading internet service provider on the Indian Ocean island, is due to list on the nation's stock exchange.

"The fall in profits is due to payment of interest on loans", chief executive Sarat Lallah told reporters on Thursday. Mauritius Telecom said turnover rose 6.5 percent to 6.8 billion rupees in 2008. "With a growth of 12 per cent, the mobile market has contributed significantly to the performance of the group," Lallah said.

In May, the government imposed new taxes on phone firms of 5 percent of profit and 1.5 percent of sales as the Treasury battles to keep its budget deficit in check.

The company's proposed listing last year was postponed with markets tumbling as the financial crisis rocked economies around the world. Declining to fix a date, company chairman Thomas Appalsamy said the listing was still on.

"The company has completed its due diligence exercise and now shareholders are working on the price and the number of shares that will be floated on the Stock Exchange," he said.

Mauritius, a remote island with a population of 1.3 million, has around 970,000 mobile subscriptions, of which more than 577,000 are with Mauritius Telecom.

In 2000, the company sold a 40 percent stake to Orange, owned by France Telecom (FTE.PA). The government and the State Bank of Mauritius own 59 percent, while 1 percent is owned by present and former employees.