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Etihad Atheeb Attributes Wider Loss to Saudi Telecom Practices

May 25 (Bloomberg) -- Etihad Atheeb Telecommunications Co., which started competing with Saudi Telecom Co. for fixed-line clients last year, said the “controlling operator’s anti-competitive practices” contributed to an increased loss.

A hearing is scheduled for May 28 in Saudi Arabia’s Grievances Court involving a lawsuit filed against the country’s telecommunications regulator, Etihad Atheeb Chairman Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdulaziz said in a statement, which was published in newspapers today.

Saudi Telecom, the country’s largest phone company by market value, has impeded Etihad Atheeb’s international calling and prepaid-card services, he said in the statement. Riyadh-based Etihad Atheeb has also filed a complaint with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s Competition Protection Council, he added.

“We trust a just and fair King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who has ordered the breaking of the monopoly and opening up fair competition in the telecom sector,” Prince Abdulaziz said.

Saudi Telecom didn’t immediately reply to a phone call and e-mail requesting comment.

The Saudi stock market regulator yesterday suspended trading in Etihad Atheeb shares as of today, after the company reported its loss for the year ended March 31 widened to 575 million riyals ($153 million), or 95 percent of its capital.

Etihad Atheeb, which started commercial operations in January 2010, will also compete with Saudi Integrated Telecom Co., which plans to start operations this year, after its initial public offering earlier this month.

Etihad Atheeb’s board in April recommended a capital reduction to 400 million riyals from 1 billion riyals, to be followed by a 600 million-riyal rights offer. “Regulatory approval is expected very soon,” Prince Abdulaziz said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mourad Haroutunian in Riyadh at mharoutunian@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Shaji Mathew at shajimathew@bloomberg.net

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