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Telecom giants Etisalat and stc remain the frontrunners across the MEA region, claiming the title of the MEA’s strongest and most valuable telecoms brands, respectively, as per  Brand Finance Telecoms 150 2021 report.

Saudi-based stc is the region’s most valuable brand with its brand value up an impressive 14% to US$9.2 billion and simultaneously jumping 5 positions to 13th and becoming a AAA- brand. stc has recently doubled the capacity of its network to enhance its operations to serve its customer service.

Just a week ago,  stc reported its highest annual revenue for eight years. In 2020, total revenues reached SR 58.94 billion ($15.72 billion), an increase of 8.43 percent. As a result, operating profit reached SR 12.81 billion, an increase of 2.69 percent.

 stc is playing a crucial part in KSA’s Vision 2030 – a strategic framework to diversity the economy away from oil – through establishing a digital hub for the whole region to accommodate future growth in the IT sector.

Commenting on the results, David Haigh, CEO, Brand Finance commented, “stc’s brand has evolved and grown following its successful masterbrand refresh and extension into Kuwait and Bahrain at the beginning of last year. The company continues to execute its DARE strategy successfully and has strengthened its positioning as a company that enables digital life. Its commitment to digital transformation has been shown with stc pay, recognised as the first tech unicorn in Saudi Arabia.”

Meanwhile, UAE-based Etisalat has been crowned the MEA’s strongest telecoms brand, with a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 87.4 out of 100 and a corresponding AAA brand strength rating – the only brand in the region to achieve this rating.  This has been achieved due to its strategy over the last few years and its recent achievement of becoming the fastest network on the planet. The brand was in a position to respond immediately to the 'new normal' of the pandemic, providing solutions and flexibility in a way that connected emotionally with consumers. Etisalat Group, the most valuable telecoms portfolio in the region which has recently broken the US$11 billion mark, is turning its sights on transforming into a truly global player.

Just few days ago, Etisalat posted a consolidated net profit of Dhs 9.0 billion, a 3.8% increase year over year attributed to strong growth in the international operations that outweighed the decline in the UAE operations.

David Haigh, CEO, Brand Finance commented, “When COVID struck in 2020, Etisalat led from the front ensuring business continuity, robust e-governance, enablement of smart cities and remote learning, to help drive the digital future of the UAE. Staying relevant and enabling the nation with the fastest network on the planet, Etisalat has earned its place as the region’s Strongest Brand, ready deliver on its ethos of Together Matters as the UAE welcomes the world at Expo 2021.”

Out of the seven Middle Eastern brands Etisalat, Mobily, Ooredoo and stc have climbed the ranks this year. Mobily is the fastest growing telco brand in the region with a 17% brand value growth, jumping 10 places in the ranking to 75th position. Mobily (brand value US$1.3 billion), has strengthened its business and brand over the last three years by positioning the brand as the everyday hero. It has attained the highest Brand Strength Index score in its history at 75.4 out of 100 (brand strength rating AA+) and is in a strong position to capture the next wave of growth by seizing opportunities in the digital economy.

Telecoms brand guardians
Every year, Brand Finance releases the ranking of the world’s top brand guardians – the Brand Guardianship Index – which includes the top 100 CEOs globally. Brand Finance researched and evaluated the brand guardianship score of over 200 CEOs this year.

stc’s Nasser Sulaiman Al Nasser topped the list of Brand Guardians from the telecoms sector this year. Al-Nasser announced his resignation in November of 2020, having presided over a successful rebrand and a period of growth for the stc brand.

The two most recently appointed Brand Guardians in the Telecom industry were Etisalat’s Hatem Dowidar, ranking 3rd and Telia’s Allison Kirkby, ranking 6th. Both had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in their first 12 months and have taken the challenge head on.

Brand Finance evaluates the relative strength of brands, based on factors such as marketing investment, customer perceptions, staff satisfaction, and corporate reputation. Alongside revenue forecasts, brand strength is a crucial driver of brand value.

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