Zain, Kuwait’s largest mobile phone operator, expects to post higher profit this year even as competition increases, CEO Nabeel Bin Salamah said. “We’re facing a lot of competition and it’s not an easy year for us,” Bin Salamah said in an interview today at Zain’s headquarters in Kuwait City. “The impact of the last three years will be felt in 2012 but the company will perform better than last year.” Zain posted net income of KWD284.9m (US$1bn) last year, down from KWD1.1bn in 2010, when it sold most of its African operations to Indian billionaire Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Airtel for US$9bn. Zain failed in September to sell a 25 percent stake in Zain Saudi Arabia to Kingdom Holding and Bahrain Telecommunications. In March 2011, Etisalat abandoned plans to buy a majority stake in Zain. “We have a very healthy and strong financial position,” Bin Salamah said. “Zain’s debt-to-equity ratio is 25 percent, which is considered low.” Zain, the market leader, competes in Kuwait with Wataniya and Viva brand. Zain shares were unchanged at 870 fils in Kuwait City trading today. The stock has declined 3 percent this year.