Kcell publishes upbeat assessment of Kazakh economy

ALMATY, July 20 (The Bulletin)  — Macroeconomic conditions in Kazakhstan are improving, Kcell, the Kazakh mobile operator part-owned by Swedish-Finnish Telia, said in its first half report, an important view of Central Asia’s biggest economy.

Kcell’s revenue from sales was down by 1.1% in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2016 at 71.54b tenge ($219.5m) but this was due to changes in tariffs and the tough market conditions in mobile operations.

More importantly, Kcell CEO Arti Ots said, the economy was starting to show sustained growth after three years of stagnation.

“In the first half of 2017, we saw continued improving trends in both macroeconomic indicators and the market environment in Kazakhstan,” he said. “In the domestic telecoms market, as previously reported, ongoing tariff adjustments are starting to give a positive impact, which we expect to see the results of in the second half of the year.”

Kcell reports are watched carefully by analysts as they are considered to give a balanced corporate view of Kazakhstan’s economy. Like the rest of the region Kazakhstan has been trying to shake off a tough three years linked to a collapse in oil prices and a recession in Russia.

Economists have also said the outlook for Kazakhstan has improved this year. The Kazakh Central Bank has said inflation is easing and the World Bank has estimated that GDP will grow at around 2.2% this year, compared to 1% in 2015 and 2016.

Kcell is fighting a 9b tenge fine for late payment of taxes in 2012-15 handed out this year by the Kazakh authorities,which it says is unfair. It said in its H1 report that it didn’t expect to have to pay the full fine. Telia is looking to sell its stakes, owned directly and indirectly, in Kcell after a corruption row focused on its operations in Uzbekistan tarnished its reputation.


This story was first published in issue 337 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

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