Wataniya International CEO leaves following Qtel acquisition

In an exclusive interview, Haleem told CommsMEA that following the agreement by 51% of Wataniya Telecom shareholders led by KIPCO to sell a controlling stake in the Kuwait-based operator to Qtel last month, he felt the time was right for him to start to explore other opportunities.

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By  Tawanda Chihota Published  April 13, 2007

Ahmad Haleem, former CEO of Dubai-based Wataniya International has left the company, CommsMEA can exclusively report. In an exclusive interview, Haleem told CommsMEA that following the agreement by 51% of Wataniya Telecom shareholders led by KIPCO to sell a controlling stake in the Kuwait-based operator to Qtel last month, he felt the time was right for him to start to explore other opportunities. Wataniya International is a 100% subsidiary of Wataniya Telecom. “About a year ago I started thinking what next in terms of my career and the direction I was taking,” Haleem revealed. “Now like many expatriates I was on a renewable contract, and the latest term expired at the end of March, so I thought this may be a good time for me change direction, step back and take another look at my situation,” he added. Qtel’s US$3.4 billion offer for a 51% stake in Wataniya Telecom valued the entire company at close to US$7 billion, and Haleem believes together with his management team at Wataniya International, he was instrumental in helping create much of this value. The international arm of Wataniya was only established as a holding company in July 2004, following Wataniya’s expansion into markets such as Tunisia, Algeria and Iraq. Together with another former Wataniya International staff member Sylvie Scott, the company’s outgoing chief commercial officer, Haleem is planning to establish a company of his own by the end of the year that will be based in Dubai and look to create value in investment opportunities occurring in the region, which are not just restricted to telecoms. “We plan to identify opportunities, pursue them, make them happen and create value in so doing,” Haleem explained. “That is precisely the skill set we developed at Wataniya International, and given the valuation of the company following our efforts, I think it is fair to believe that we can create more value not just for ourselves but for those around us as well,” he added. The abundance of liquidity in Dubai and around the region is something Haleem believes a venture like the one he is proposing establishing could successfully capitalise on. “We are not going to be consultants on a daily rate, but we are not necessarily going to behave like a private equity fund either,” Haleem suggested.

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