Qtel raises stake in Indonesian operator

Qatari telecom increases share in PT Indosat to 40.8% in deal worth $1.8bn, now largest stakeholder.

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By  Lin Noueihed and Ola Galal Published  June 7, 2008

Qatari telecom Qtel said on Saturday it had increased its stake in PT Indosat, Indonesia's second-largest mobile phone operator, to 40.8% in a deal worth $1.8 billion.

Qtel had acquired the stake from Asia Mobile Holding, a subsidiary it jointly holds with Singapore Technologies Telemedia, the firm said in a statement.

"We believe that Indonesia is a high growth market for telecommunications and that Indosat is very well placed to compete in that market," Chief Executive Nasser Marafih said in the statement.

Qtel Chairman Abdullah bin Saud Al-Thani told Doha-based Al Jazeera television by telephone that the Qatari firm, which previously controlled 25% of Indosat, was now the largest stakeholder.

Qtel said last year it was looking to buy Asian and Arab operators and licences and expand its fixed-wireless and corporate enterprise data as it pushed out of Qatar.

The firm's shares rose 5.33% this year to last week's close, underperforming the benchmark, which is up almost 26% this year. Qatar's stock exchange was closed on Saturday.

State-controlled or affiliated Gulf Arab telecom operators have been expanding abroad as their home markets mature, spending billions of dollars on acquisitions from Indonesia to Africa.

Indosat said on Friday its subscribers rose 22% to 30 million in the first five months of the year, putting the company on track to meet its 2008 target.

Qtel posted a record profit in the first quarter after buying a Kuwaiti operator and adding mobile phone users in its home market where the energy-based economy is surging. (Reuters)

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