The Telecommunications industry in Oman has witnessed significant growth and transformation in recent years, driven by technological advancements and a burgeoning demand for connectivity. Omantel, as the pioneering telecommunications company in Oman, has played a pivotal role in shaping and expanding this sector. Leading the financial helm of Omantel is Ghassan Al-Hashar, the Chief Financial Officer of the organization.
He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting from the UAE University and a Master's Degree in Finance and Investment Management from the University of Aberdeen, complemented by certifications from prestigious institutions and a track record of academic excellence. His role as CFO at Omantel encompasses managing financial performance, nurturing investor relations, and ensuring robust financial governance and risk mitigation, all of which contribute to the continued growth and success of the telecommunications sector in Oman. Let’s learn more in this interview.
Could you please provide a brief overview of your professional journey thus far and what is it that drives your daily routines?
I am currently serving as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at OMANTEL, where my responsibilities include developing and executing the company's financial strategy to enhance shareholder value, overseeing mergers and acquisitions aligned with corporate objectives, managing financial performance, nurturing investor relations, and ensuring robust financial governance and risk mitigation. I also advise the CEO & Board of Directors on matters pertaining to Omantel's financial and economic well-being. With our combined efforts, Omantel achieved a consolidated revenue of OMR 2.7 billion ($ 7 billion) and a net profit of OMR 279 million ($ 724.7 million) in 2022.
Before joining Omantel, I worked in investment banking and asset management, serving as the Chief Investment Officer of one of the country's largest investment funds with multi-billion-dollar assets under management (AUM). I have a proven track record in managing various asset classes, including listed equities, private equity, real estate, and fixed income. Additionally, I have held positions as Chairman and Member on several boards of both listed and unlisted companies. Interacting positively with my office team and enjoying quality family time in the evening serve as sources of motivation and drive for me.
As the Chief Financial Officer, what are the factors you consider while developing a financial strategy for the company?
In developing financial strategies, my priority is aligning with organizational goals in current and future market dynamics. We seek efficiency and continuous improvement while maintaining stakeholder quality and maximizing shareholder value. Omantel recently achieved optimized capital structure and liquidity through two significant deleveraging deals. We sold over 2,500 tower sites to Helios Towers plc for RO 190.2 Mn (US $ 494 Mn) in cash. Additionally, we monetized our Omantel Head Quarter building, generating RO 42.9 Million ($111.4 Mn) through a REIF structure while retaining control. We also invest for future growth, acquiring a 51percent stake in 'Future Cities SAOC,' focused on IoT and data services, and investing in 'Global Financial Technology LLC,' pursuing a Payment Service Provider License. Our focus on synergies with Zain Group have led to operational efficiencies and cost savings through streamlined processes, capital expenditure prioritization, resource optimization, vendor management, and network optimization. Our other cost rationalization programs have generated notable cost savings across several cost centers in recent years.
How do you lead your team in extracting valuable market insights to ensure the company's financial well-being?
At Omantel, we foster a culture of continuous learning, training, and development. Finance actively engages in shaping business decisions and strategies. It's crucial for finance professionals to possess a deep understanding of both the business and the market to effectively contribute as business partners. Internally, we map competencies to specific roles and create tailored training programs for each employee as part of quarterly performance discussions. We emphasize the importance of the finance team staying updated on new technologies and market developments, encompassing both technical and business aspects. To facilitate knowledge sharing, we hold quarterly finance employee forums, where we discuss financial performance and exchange insights on business and market developments with the entire team. Annually, we host a finance strategy meeting, diving into the current year's business and market landscape, while also brainstorming finance and business strategies for the upcoming year. Additionally, we periodically invite experts, both internal and external, to provide insights on telecom sector advancements, emerging technologies, and the Oman market.
How do you assess the profitability of an investment?
Over time, Omantel's finance team has developed robust financial models and procedures for evaluating investments. We assess investments using metrics such as Net Present Value, Internal Rate of Return, and Pay-back Period. Finance collaborates with business teams and end users to translate every aspect of the business case into financial terms, ensuring that investment evaluations are grounded in sound logic, trends, and thorough analysis. Strategic considerations are also factored in to make well-informed decisions. Rather than evaluating each case in isolation, the finance team takes a holistic view of each investment and its overall impact on the organization. We ensure that investment evaluations account for current and anticipated future business dynamics, including the influence of micro and macroeconomic factors and global developments. Additionally, we conduct regular post-appraisal assessments of each investment to provide ongoing updates to management and the organization regarding performance.
What's your ultimate destination in the future?
Omantel's vision extends beyond conventional connectivity to embrace emerging and novel technologies. We are actively in the process of shifting our identity from a traditional 'Telecom' company to a 'Technology' operator in the coming years. Our investments in entities like 'Future Cities SAOC' and the local Fintech startup 'Global Financial Technology LLC,' in addition to collaborating with other Omani tech firms and startups, align with our strategic direction. As a resilient company with a strong culture of innovation, we will persistently prioritize new technologies and customer-centric approaches. Moreover, we are implementing various initiatives to equip our workforce with the necessary skills in line with Omantel's long-term strategy.
Ghassan Al-Hashar, CFO, Oman Telecommunications
He is an accomplished CFO with international expertise in finance and investment, driving innovation and growth at Omantel.