BARCELONA // Samsung is hoping that device launches this evening, ahead of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) opening on March 2, will help to arrest its sliding market share in the global smartphone market.

The South Korean phone maker is widely expected to unveil in Barcelona the Galaxy S6, the latest iteration of its flagship smartphone series.

The company is also expected to announce the Galaxy S6 Edge, a slightly smaller device featuring a curved screen, similar to the Galaxy Note Edge launched last year.

Huawei and HTC are also likely to unveil new handsets at special pre-MWC events, with Sony and Microsoft expected to follow suit on the first day of the congress.

Samsung will be hoping that new handset will not suffer the same fate as the Galaxy S5, launched at the sidelines of last year’s MWC, which fell well short of the sales figures achieved by its predecessor, the S4.

As a result, Samsung’s global smartphone market share dropped sharply to 20 per cent during the final quarter last year, down from about 29 per cent a year previously, according to figures from the industry analyst IDC.

This puts it just ahead of Apple, whose market share market rose to just under 20 per cent from about 17 per cent over the same period thanks to strong sales of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus towards the end of year.

“There were some improvements in some of the specifications but the overall feeling was that it looked and felt exactly like the S4,” said Nabila Popal, IDC’s research manager for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

“At the same time, many other manufactures came up with similar or better handsets with large screens, which Samsung previously had a clear lead in.”

Samsung last month reported a 64 per cent drop in mobile revenue for the fourth quarter compared with the final quarter of 2013, contributing in part to the company’s first fall in annual earnings for three years.

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Etisalat today reported a 26 per cent increase in annual net profit across its international footprint, bolstered by its acquisition of Moroccan operator Maroc Telecom in May.

The Abu Dhabi-listed telecom operator’s revenues rose 26.5 per cent year on year to Dh48.8 billion, with the addition of Maroc Telecom accounting for more than 50 per cent of the increase. UAE revenues meanwhile increased 8.9 per cent year on year to Dh27.8bn.

Etisalat added 21 million subscribers during the year, most of which also came from Maroc Telecom, taking its aggregate subscriber base to 169 million at the end of December.

The operator, active in 19 markets across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, has proposed a final dividend payout of 70 fils per share for 2014, representing a dividend payout ratio of 62 per cent and a dividend yield of 6 per cent.

The company’s board has also proposed the issuance of 10 per cent bonus shares.

The results largely came in ahead of analyst predictions, with only revenues for the fourth quarter falling short of an average of analyst predictions compiled by Bloomberg.

The operator announced in November that it would reduce its annual profits by Dh162 million, following a restatement of earnings by its Saudi subsidiary Etihad Etisalat, in which the UAE company owns a 27.46 per cent stake.

The Saudi operator, also known as Mobily, said on Wednesday that its chief executive Khalid Al Kaf had been discharged from his duties, following a series of accounting errors that have wiped around $9bn off its market value in the past four months.

Shares in Etisalat rose by more than 3 per cent in the first hour of trading, reaching their highest level since April 2014.

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Etisalat shareholders are set to reap a bumper dividend payout after fourth quarter profit surged by almost half.

The telecoms company, active in 19 markets across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, on Thursday announced its annual profit jumped 26 per cent to Dh8.9 billion.

For the final quarter alone the profit was Dh2.1bn, up 47 per cent from a year earlier.

Etisalat proposed a final dividend payout of 70 fils per share for 2014, or Dh5.54 billion, in line with dividend payments for 2012 and 2013, representing a dividend payout ratio of 62 per cent and a dividend yield of 6 per cent. The board has also proposed the issuance of a 10 per cent share bonus.

Etisalat’s shares, listed on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, ended the day up 3.88 per cent at Dh12.05, their highest since last March. Etisalat’s results were “a pleasant surprise overall”, according to Sanyalaksna Manibhandu, manager of research at NBAD Securities.

The operator’s group revenues surged 26.5 per cent year-on-year to Dh48.8bn, following the acquisition of Maroc Telecom last year.

The Moroccan operator accounted for more than half of the increase in group revenues. UAE revenues, meanwhile, increased 8.9 per cent year-on-year to Dh27.8bn.

“Maroc Telecom said earlier this week that it had returned to revenue growth in Morocco in the second half of 2014,” said Matthew Reed, a Dubai-based analyst with Ovum.

“Growth in fixed-line and internet revenues led the improvement within Morocco, but competition in the local mobile market remains quite tough.”

Etisalat added 21 million subscribers during the year, most of which also came from Maroc Telecom, taking its aggregate subscriber base to 169 million at the end of December.

The operator’s active subscriber base in the UAE grew to 11 million at the end of 2014, a year-on-year increase of 6 per cent.

Ahmad Julfar, the group’s chief executive, described 2014 as a “milestone year”.

“Our expansion in Africa, which increased our international presence to 19 markets across the Mena region, was accompanied by strong figures in our international operations [and] the continuance of steady growth for our operations in the UAE,” he said.

Mr Julfar highlighted “the rapid growth of data usage” as the key to the future of the telecoms industry. “New, transformative platforms such as M2M and mobile identities, as well as the digitisation of traditional forms of information transfer are taking the industry to exciting new levels,” he said.

The results came in ahead of analyst predictions, with only revenues for the fourth quarter falling short of a median of analyst predictions by Bloomberg.

Etisalat said that it had absorbed a Dh200 million impact from the restatement of earnings by the Saudi operator Etihad Etisalat, in which the UAE company owns a 27.46 per cent stake, but described the effect as “immaterial”.

Mobily announced a full year loss of 913m Saudi riyals (Dh894.1m) on Wednesday, and revealed that it was in breach of loan covenants with a number of lenders. The operator had earlier announced that its chief executive Khalid Al Kaf had been discharged from his duties, following a series of accounting errors that have wiped around US$9bn off its market value in the past four months.

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Property companies were the main gainers yesterday in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which both ended the day marginally higher.

The Dubai Financial Market General Index ended 0.8 per cent higher at 3,870.15 points.

Shares in Damac Properties closed up 2 per cent at Dh2.96, after the developer announced plans to build what it describes as the Middle East’s first tropical rainforest, as part of its Akoya Oxygen development in Dubai.

Union Properties rose by 0.9 per cent on news that it had agreed to sell its Auto Mall development in MotorCity for Dh525 million to Texture Global Investments. The company’s shares ended the day at Dh1.09. Deyaar Development and Emaar Properties also gained, although Arabtec ended the day fractionally lower.

Real estate stocks were also the main gainers in the capital, where the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange General Index rose 0.2 per cent, its first rise in five days.

Aldar Properties closed up 2.3 per cent at Dh2.67, while Eshraq Properties gained 1.2 per cent at 81 fils. RAK Properties rose 2.7 per cent to 77 fils.

The Sharjah-based Dana Gas was the main lagger on the index, closing down 2.17 per cent at 45 fils.

Shares in Waha Capital closed down 0.6 per cent at Dh2.98 after the company announced it was considering investing up to Dh4 billion in the next three to five years across the energy, health care and education sectors.

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It’s the nightmare scenario for the faint-hearted shopper: you finally decide on the item that you want to buy, but are then faced with running the gauntlet of online retailers with slightly different prices and delivery times. And that’s before you decide to go looking for it in the mall.

Enter Mena Commerce, a Dubai-based start-up calling itself “Google for retail” in the region. Now when you are looking for an iPhone, just visit the company’s search engine at shopshopme.com, where you can find out where the phone is available, its cost and the delivery options.

Mena Commerce is the brainchild of Moustafa Mahmoud, a 31-year old Egyptian national based in Dubai since the early ‘90s. Mr Mahmoud started early in the technology world. He began coding aged 10, and entered university at 15, moving on to a series of roles with Oracle, EMC and SAP.

Mr Mahmoud started Mena Commerce in 2013, with investors from the Dubai government, Silicon Valley and Oracle. The company, which has already had three acquisition offers, is on course to become profitable by the end of 2017.

Its first product is Bivine, described as the region’s first real-time competitive intelligence solution for the retail space, offering insights into eCommerce trends for retailers and brands. Mena Commerce subsequently launched shopshopme.com partly at the urging of its retail customers, who understood the value of the data that the company had acquired.

Next month Mena Commerce will take shopshopme.com to the next level, offering listings for offline retailers as well as online.

What’s more, the company will next launch its first mobile app, which will use its own visual search function.

“If you take a picture of a product we’ll be able to tell you what it is and who is selling it. You don’t even need to search by text, all you need is your camera,” said Mr Mahmoud.

For the founder of Mena Commerce, the spirit of innovation is the be all and end all when it comes to running a business.

“In a competitive business environment, everything can be copied or replicated by another company except innovation, so that’s what really sets you apart,” he said.

“We decided to create something new. Even though [what we do was] unexplored and untested in our market, we thought it was worth the risk, and it’s worked out much better than expected.”

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It’s the nightmare scenario for the faint-hearted shopper: you finally decide on the item that you want to buy, but are then faced with running the gauntlet of online retailers with slightly different prices and delivery times. And that’s before you decide to go looking for it in the mall.

Enter Mena Commerce, a Dubai-based start-up calling itself “Google for retail” in the region. Now when you are looking for an iPhone, just visit the company’s search engine at shopshopme.com, where you can find out where the phone is available, its cost and the delivery options.

Mena Commerce is the brainchild of Moustafa Mahmoud, a 31-year old Egyptian national based in Dubai since the early ‘90s. Mr Mahmoud started early in the technology world. He began coding aged 10, and entered university at 15, moving on to a series of roles with Oracle, EMC and SAP.

Mr Mahmoud started Mena Commerce in 2013, with investors from the Dubai government, Silicon Valley and Oracle. The company, which has already had three acquisition offers, is on course to become profitable by the end of 2017.

Its first product is Bivine, described as the region’s first real-time competitive intelligence solution for the retail space, offering insights into eCommerce trends for retailers and brands. Mena Commerce subsequently launched shopshopme.com partly at the urging of its retail customers, who understood the value of the data that the company had acquired.

Next month Mena Commerce will take shopshopme.com to the next level, offering listings for offline retailers as well as online.

What’s more, the company will next launch its first mobile app, which will use its own visual search function.

“If you take a picture of a product we’ll be able to tell you what it is and who is selling it. You don’t even need to search by text, all you need is your camera,” said Mr Mahmoud.

For the founder of Mena Commerce, the spirit of innovation is the be all and end all when it comes to running a business.

“In a competitive business environment, everything can be copied or replicated by another company except innovation, so that’s what really sets you apart,” he said.

“We decided to create something new. Even though [what we do was] unexplored and untested in our market, we thought it was worth the risk, and it’s worked out much better than expected.”

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Bahrain’s GFH was the heaviest traded stock on the Dubai Financial Market for the second day in a row on Tuesday, after the financial group confirmed its return to profit on Monday.

The stock ended the day down 1.98 per cent at 29.7 fils, as investors booked gains after surging 7.83 per cent on Monday.

The markets were otherwise quiet , with the DFM General Index inching up by 0.17 per cent at 3,838.69.

Shares in Arabtec Holding rose by 1.3 per cent to Dh3.11, while Deyaar Development ended the day 1.46 per cent higher at 76.3 fils.

Shuaa Capital was the biggest gainer of the day, ending up 8.1 per cent at 68.1 fils, followed by the insurance providers Takaful Emarat and Takaful House, which ended up 7.53 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively.

In the capital, the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange General Index closed down 0.2 per cent at 4,621.03. Slight gains by Etisalat, NBAD and Waha Capital were offset by declines from Aldar Properties, ADCB and UNB.

Other Arabian Gulf stock exchanges experienced similarly muted trading. Qatar and Oman’s bourses edged down 0.19 and 0.31 per cent respectively, with Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia all up by less than 1 per cent on the day.

In London, shares in NMC Health rose 2.36 per cent at 520 pence late afternoon UAE time.

The Abu Dhabi-based healthcare provider announced it had agreed to acquire an 86.4 per cent stake in Clinica Eugin, a Spanish fertility treatment provider, for €143 million.

NMC also said that revenues grew 16.9 per cent during 2014 to $643.9m, with profits rising 12.2 per cent to $77.5m.

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Shares in GFH were the hottest stock traded in the UAE yesterday after the company announced its return to profit for last year.

GFH, which last year said it was transforming itself from an investment bank to a financial group, on Sunday reported an annual profit attributable to shareholders of US$11 million for 2014, compared with a loss of $18m for 2013. “We have taken steps in 2014 to recapitalise our balance sheet, strengthen our structure and emerge as a financial group,” said Ahmed Al Mutawa, GFH’s chairman.

“We embarked upon a new strategy to create a more stable financial position through increasing the capital and enhancing the balance sheet. [In the meantime] focusing on acquisitions to enhance the financial position of the group and our co-investors through steady streams of income and opportunities for strong upside potential at exit.”

Shares for the Bahrain-based company, listed on the Dubai Financial Market, rose 7.8 per cent, the stock’s largest daily gain in more than a month, closing the day at 30.3 fils.

About 371 million GFH shares changed hands yesterday on the DFM, accounting for nearly three-quarters of the total volume on the bourse.

The DFM General Index itself was little changed, ending the day down 0.2 per cent at 3,832.19. Gains by Damac Properties and DFM were cancelled out by declines in Air Arabia, UPP and Deyaar Development.

In the capital, the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange General Index ended the day down 0.3 per cent at 4,630.36 as financial stocks edged down.

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