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Zain full Iraq mobile coverage by year-end

Dubai, February 18, 2008

Kuwaiti mobile phone firm Zain has said it would expand its coverage to the whole of Iraq by the end of 2008 after buying the Iraqi unit of Egypt's Orascom Telecom and building up its network.

Ali Dahwi, chief executive of Zain Iraq, said in an interview that the company expected to integrate its Iraqi network fully with Orascom's former Iraqna subsidiary by year-end.

"We have 7.5 million subscribers in the centre and the south. However, we just opened a new service in Kirkuk and we are building our network in Diyala, Tikrit, Anbar and Sulaimaniya," he said on the sidelines of the Iraqi Defence and Telecommunications Summit in Dubai.

"Over the next two months, we will see our service set up in these areas and by the end of the year we should cover the whole of Iraq."

Zain, the third-largest Arab telecom firm by market value, bought Iraqna for $1.2 billion late last year after the Egyptian operator failed to win a licence to continue the operations it began after the US-led invasion of 2003.

Iraqna had been forced to tie up with Kurdish operator Korek Telecom but sold to Zain after the partnership failed.

Zain, Kuwaiti rival National Mobile Telecommunications Company and Orascom set up mobile phone networks in Iraq under licences sold by the US-led interim administration that ran the country immediately after Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003.

Only Zain retained the right to operate its network at an auction of licences held by the Iraqi government in August 2007, paying $1.25 billion for the privilege.

Dahwi declined to forecast 2008 profit figures for Zain Iraq but said growth potential in the Iraqi market meant the substantial investments the company made in 2007 would pay off despite security fears that have kept many investors away.

"We feel the Iraqi market will prove in the next few years to be the most dynamic in the regional market with the highest percentage of growth," Dahwi said.-Reuters

Tags: Telecom | Iraq | Zain | coverage |

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