By Alastair Sharp
CAIRO (Reuters) - Mobinil, with Egypt's biggest pool of mobile subscribers, aims to ensure it does not lose the 3 percent of its users that do not meet new government requirements for giving personal details, it said on Tuesday.
The firm, which on Monday posted first quarter net profit that disappointed analysts and the stock market, also said its plan to expand its user base has been stymied by delays to the rollout of a new national numbering plan.
The telecom regulator plans to add an extra digit to all mobile phone numbers in Egypt and has also said all mobile users must have personal information attached to their accounts starting from May 2. Mobinil said three percent of its subscribers were "unregistered".
Chief Executive Hassan Kabbani told a conference call Mobinil could lose those subscribers "if we don't do anything about it", adding: "We are now working on improving the level of customer information".
He said Mobinil has 30 million dials, the individual mobile phone numbers it provides to subscribers, and more than 26 million active subscribers. Mobinil first requested additional dials in May 2009 and received regulator approval last month.
"We were left without (new) dials for almost a year," Kabbani said. "The regulator was unable to provide us with new dials due to the delay in implementing the new national numbering plan".
Mobinil is engaged in a fierce pricing war with the North African country's two other operators, Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat Egypt, which has forced it to offer free and discounted on-network minutes and pressures margins.
Without mentioning newest entrant Etisalat by name, Kabbani made clear that the Abu Dhabi-based firm was dragging its feet on implementing the new numbering plan.
"We are ready for implementation and we are eager to do it as soon as possible. We know that Vodafone is almost in the same situation like us," he said.
In its earnings release, Mobinil said it expected regulatory pressure to intensify as stricter registration rules lead to disconnections and until the plan to ameliorate a shortage of mobile phone numbers is put in place.
The firm's shares fell 3.6 percent to close at 203 Egyptian pounds in Tuesday trade.
Mobinil co-owners Orascom Telecom and France Telecom patched up a long-running dispute over the firm earlier this month and provided details of their new pact earlier on Tuesday.
Under the deal, Mobinil will pay $130 million to acquire Orascom internet assets LINKdotNET and Link Egypt. Mobinil's chief financial officer Khalid Ellaicy told the conference call that the deal would likely by finalised in the second quarter.