Etisalat admits interest in Saudi GSM license

The UAE's telecomms monopoly has submitted a 'request for pre-qualification' to Saudi's telecomms regulator.

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By  David Ingham Published  March 17, 2004

Saudi Arabia’s second mobile telephone license has proven attractive enough to prompt Etisalat to submit a request for pre-qualification (RFPQ) to Saudi's telecomms regulator. If Etisalat achieves the pre-qualification and goes ahead with a bid, it would mark a change in strategy for the UAE’s monopoly telecomms operator. The organisation has limited investments overseas and has avoided them almost entirely in recent years. However, Saudi Arabia is a market of 22 million people, many of them affluent, of whom only five million currently have a mobile. “As a leading telecommunications provider in the region, we continually explore all possible investment opportunities to extend our services into new markets when the conditions are right,” Etisalat’s general manager for international business, Saeed M. Al Bahhar, said in a statement. “Saudi Arabia is an attractive opportunity and we plan to participate in the bidding process. Etisalat’s current overseas holdings include a 34.525% stake in Thuraya, a satellite telecomms operator, 34% of Zanzibar Telecom, 5.1% of Sudan Telecom and some shares in Qatar Telecom. Whether this is a tentative toe in the water or Etisalat really is departing from its policy of focusing solely on its domestic market remains to be seen. In a sentence that seems to have been written with journalists in mind, Al Bahhar says that, “due to the sensitive nature of this first phase, Etisalat cannot provide more details at this time.”

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