Batelco 'remains interested in African M&A'
Manama, February 24, 2010
Batelco, Bahrain’s leading telecom services provider, said it would be interested in acquiring pieces of Kuwaiti Zain's African assets if their buyer, India's Bharti Airtel, ever decided to break them up.
"We are looking at all opportunities. If there were assets (to be sold on by Bharti), we would look at them," chief executive Peter Kaliaropoulos said on Wednesday, adding he did not expect Bharti to break up Zain's assets.
Bharti has offered to acquired Zain's African assets for $9 billion. "If you split up assets, you lose value," Kaliaropoulos said after a meeting at which Batelco shareholders approved an unchanged 2009 dividend of BD0.05 ($0.13).
Batelco has said it plans to make an acquisition worth up to $2 billion in Africa and India, which it would finance through a mix of debt and equity, and by bringing partners on board.
But with its home market of just above 1 million Batelco is a small player compared with Gulf Arab telecom heavyweights Saudi Telecom and the UAE’s Etisalat.
Another opportunity to enter Africa is the potential sale by Egyptian operator Orascom Telecom of its Algerian operation Djezzy. The Algerian government wants Orascom to relinquish ownership of the company, according to government and financial sources.
Kaliaropoulos said Batelco did not have the financial clout to enter any bidding on its own, but would be interested as part of a consortium.
Kaliaropoulos said at the shareholder meeting that Batelco's 2010 profit would likely be dampened by start-up costs for its new Indian unit S Tel which started operations late last year.
"We expect net profit to decline marginally," he said.
The profit guidance was in line with previous statements.
Last month, Kaliaropoulos said he expected 2010 net profit to be at least BD100 million ($265 million).
Batelco posted a 2009 net profit of BD105 million. – Reuters