Batelco set for conflict with TRA

Batelco is heading for a confrontation with the Bahraini regulator over its threats to cut investment and downsize its local operations.

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By  Peter Branton Published  May 22, 2007

Batelco is heading for a confrontation with the Bahraini regulator over its threats to cut investment and downsize its local operations. Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has warned the telco that it must be willing to accept competition as the country moves towards liberalisation of the sector, according to reports in local media. The TRA was responding to an interview Batelco’s CEO, Peter Kaliaropoulos, gave to Gulf Daily News. Kaliaropoulos told the paper that he did not feel Batelco had enough “incentive” to keep investing in infrastructure as the TRA was limiting returns to 10-12%. “Thank you, but that’s not good enough,” Kaliaropoulos reportedly said. “I might as well take my capital and invest it overseas, because I would make a much higher return.” Batelco last month won one of three licences granted to operate a fixed-line network in Saudi Arabia, as part of its partnership with the Atheeb Group. Kaliaropoulos told CommsMEA that the deal was part of a longer-term regional strategy. In the Gulf Daily News interview, Kaliaropoulos also said that the operator is looking to downsize its operations within Bahrain. “All companies downsize when competition comes in and we will probably be outsourcing operations,” he said. In April, Batelco narrowly avoided strike action after it struck a deal with its Trade Union over salary packages. Union officials have repeatedly expressed concerns over job cuts among Batelco’s 1,600 Bahrain-based staff. While Batelco has denied it is planning any such cuts, it has also repeatedly said that it would review its headcount in the face of competition.

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