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Etisalat 'close to buying Iraqi telecom operator'

Abu Dhabi, February 22, 2010

Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat) is close to buying a majority stake in Iraq's Korek Telecom as it looks to double revenues from overseas operations in three years, Etisalat's chairman said.

Etisalat, the Gulf region's second-largest telecommunications firm by market value, has been aggressively expanding outside the United Arab Emirates since its monopoly there was broken by Dubai-based du in 2007.   

The company said on Feb 18 there were six markets in the Middle East and North Africa that it was investigating for both acquisitions or new licences.

"Etisalat is almost near to finalising a deal with Korek," Mohammad Omran said at a press conference, later adding it was in talks to buy a majority stake in the northern Iraq-based telecom firm.

Iraq currently has three mobile phone operators -- Kuwait's Zain, Korek and Asiacell, a unit of Qatar Telecommunications Co, each of which has paid the government $1.25 billion in licence fees.

Omran said the six markets the firm was looking at also included Algeria and Libya.

"Etisalat will opt for a bonds issue based on its needs," Omran said. "It depends on major acquisitions ... we are ready," he said, adding it would also depend on market conditions.

Omran was quoted last week as saying the firm was interested in buying Djezzy, the Algerian unit of Egypt's Orascom Telecom.

The Algerian government wants Orascom to relinquish ownership of Algeria's No.1 mobile phone operator, government and finance industry sources told Reuters.   

"If we do all we have in mind, it (2010 spending) will be a big amount," Omran said.

Etisalat, which recently crossed the 100 million subscriber mark, operates in 18 countries, stretching from Tanzania to Indonesia and including Egypt and Saudi Arabia.   

The firm submitted a bid in July for a licence in Libya and has previously indicated its interest in acquiring a company in Iraq and bidding for licences in Lebanon and Syria. It failed last year in a bid to take a stake in Meditel, Morocco's second-largest telecommunications' firm and had its licence withdrawn in Iran.

"Etisalat expects revenues from international operations to (reach) 20 percent in 3 years," he said, rising from 10 percent now. - Reuters

Tags: Etisalat | Iraq | Operator | Korek Telecom |

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