Friday, May 15, 2009

Etisalat To Bid for Meditel as it Eyes Africa & Middle East

Emirates Telecommunications Corp said it would bid for a stake in Morocco's Meditel as it seeks acquisitions in the Middle East and Africa, adding asset prices were likely to fall further.
Emirates Telecom, known as Etisalat, would also continue to pursue the telecom license in Iran it was stripped of last week, its Chairman Mohammed Hassan Omran told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea in Jordan.
"We are looking for opportunities in the Middle East and Africa, especially at this time there are some good assets," Omran told Reuters Financial Television. "Assets are becoming cheap ... we see them becoming more cheap in coming months."
Portugal Telecom has appointed Morgan Stanley to sell its 32 percent stake in Meditel, Morocco's second-largest telecoms company, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month.
"We are expecting Morocco ... We are participating in the bid for Morocco... Meditel and we are working hard for Syria and Lebanon," Omran said, without giving further details.
The telecom operator is facing stiffer competition in its home market the United Arab Emirates, the second-largest Arab economy, where some analysts expect job cuts and expected population declines could way on future earnings of Etisalat and rival du DU.DU.
"We are working hard to maintain that and even get it better," Omran said when asked if Etisalat was likely to be able to match a 4-percent rise in profit it achieved in the first quarter.
He said the UAE market is becoming more difficult because expatriates are leaving, but Etisalat expected growth in Saudi Arabia, where its affiliate Etihad Etisalat 7020.SE was doing "better than expected."
Etisalat Egypt, the third mobile phone operator in the North African country, was also performing "better than competitors," Omran said. Saudi Arabia is the most-populous Gulf Arab country while Egypt has the largest population in the Arab world.
Etisalat said in January it planned to invest up to $5 billion over five years in its Iranian operation after winning the country's third mobile telephone license.
But Iran said on May 11 it had granted a consortium led by Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co the license instead because a group including Etisalat and Iran's Tamin Telecom "had not fulfilled its obligations.
"In Iran, we made the best bid. Our partner could not continue and that ended up disqualifying the consortium," Omran said. "We are evaluating the possibilities. It is the big market and it has a lot of potential. But it is complex. The game is not over for us in Iran."

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