Etisalat eyeing acquisitions in midst of crisis

UAE telecom seeking to benefit from falling asset prices in financial crisis.

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By  Daliah Merzaban Published  November 16, 2008

UAE telecom Etisalat is eyeing acquisitions as it seeks to benefit from falling prices in a financial crisis, potentially using its $3 billion in cash, a senior official said on Sunday.

Like other Gulf Arab telecom firms, Etisalat has been snapping up assets worth billions of dollars in populous countries such as Egypt and Pakistan.

When asked about the cash position of Etisalat to finance possible acquisitions, chief operating officer (COO) Ahmad Julfar said: "We have over $3 billion."

"We are watching what's happening in the markets. We are not holding back but waiting to see what will happen. We believe there will be a lot of opportunities in 2009," he told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai.

"Everybody admits we have a major crisis... nobody is immune from this crisis, all sectors and economies will be affected in one way or the other," Julfar said earlier at a panel discussion.

"Out of this crisis, great opportunities will come for operators with a very good financial position for mergers and acquisitions."

Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co. (Zain) said earlier this month it plans to make four to five acquisitions worth up to $4 billion before 2010 to take advantage of declining asset prices due to the global credit crunch.

Julfar said Etisalat was focusing on the region, declining to be more specific.

Etisalat has invested $11 billion in 16 countries so far, Julfar said at the panel discussion.

"We need to focus during this time to create value in these markets. Always the telecom sector is the last and least affected during a crisis," Julfar said, naming Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and India.

Etisalat's head of international investments Jamal Al-Jarwan told newswire Reuters in September the firm was in final-stage talks to buy a majority stake worth up to $1 billion in a Middle East telecoms operator this year.

The company's shares closed down 2.31 percent on Sunday and are down 33.88 percent year-to-date, outperforming Abu Dhabi's main index, which has declined 39.47 percent. (Reuters)

3230 days ago
Salem Kendi

Having worked for this giant in new start up operations, all I can say is that they should keep their money within the UAE and develop the markets within the UAE because some of the places Etisalat have invested in (Tanzania, Sudan, Afghanistan) are loss making ventures. Whatever COO Ahmed Abdulkarim Julfar says, makes sense but it is better to keep your money where your mouth is and take care of the local operation. Money being invested in Sudan is not going to realise profits and without GSM service in Sudan under Canar's market product base, Etisalat may have to pull out of Sudan soon - cut your losses and go.

3230 days ago
UK

I may sound bit sarcastic, but I suggest Etisalat preserve it's cash. It will be an uphill task for Etisalat to churn our profits in ventures outside UAE due to competition. It is having a ball in UAE because of duopoly nature of business here.

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