Virtual doctor

Like medicine, Dr Sultan Bahabri believes the telecoms industry has the power to change people's lives.

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By  Claire Ferris-Lay Published  April 12, 2008

As pan-Gulf operator Hits Telecom prepares to list in Kuwait, Claire Ferris-Lay talks to the chairman of the Saudi telco to find out why the doctor-turned-businessman is looking to expand beyond the region.

Dr Sultan Bahabri is not your average physician. After founding the King Faisal Jeddah Hospital in Saudi Arabia, he turned his attention to the telecoms business and became chairman of the Hits Telecom Group in 2001.

Like medicine, Bahabri believes the telecoms industry has the power to change people's lives - and nowhere more so than in Africa where his group is hoping to expand its network in an attempt to gain as many as six million subscribers by 2010.

The African market is going to be the future, even for European operators.

"The mobile phone is the most powerful invention in the last 50 years and it continues to evolve," he tells Arabian Business.

Hits Telecom hopes to raise as much US$300m through a share sale on the Kuwait Stock Exchange which will allow it to boost mobile penetration in Africa.

The Kuwait listing is being arranged with co-investor Al Madina Company for Investment, while Bahabri reveals that the company is also considering listing its shares in Dubai later this year.

"By participating in the Kuwait stock exchange, we believe we can gain the benefit of trading our shares in a well regulated, sophisticated and respected Middle East market," says Bahabri.

Hits Telecom was established in Saudi Arabia but will move its operations to Kuwait following the share listing. Its management offices will remain in Bahrain.

By 2010 Hits aims to have between 4-6 million subscribers in 10 countries and where better to look for expanding the company abroad than Africa, says Bahabri. "The African market is going to be the future, even for European operators.

"I think Middle East operators have taken a bold move [by expanding into these countries] as just three years ago the African market was considered risky and unpredictable," says Bahabri.

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