Wataniya Palestine secures funding

Further funding as Palestinian mobile operator Wataniya Palestine Telecom (WPT) expands.

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By  Martin Morris Published  February 4, 2009

Wataniya Palestine Telecom (WPT), Palestine’s second mobile operator, confirmed on Wednesday it has secured $85 million further funding to support the next phase of its mobile telephony network build-out.

The private sector loan draws funding from a wide range of major international banks and local Palestinian banks, as well as multilateral institutions, providing material support for the creation of a new infrastructure for mobile phone services within Palestine.

It is the first agreement in this field to deliver funding for development from international and local private sector sources.

The $85 million Senior Secured Syndicated Facility loan was agreed between WPT and the lender group comprising Bank of Palestine Plc, Quds Bank, Commercial Bank of Palestine Limited, Ericsson Credit AB, International Finance Corporation, and Standard Bank Plc.

Exportkreditnämden, the Swedish Export Credits Guarantee Board and GuarantCo, a specialist guarantor of infrastructure financing in low-income countries, are acting as guarantors to the syndicated facility. Standard Bank Plc is acting as a Global-Coordinator for the Facility.

Executives at the signing ceremony said the loan reflected international confidence in Palestine’s potential for growth and development and demonstrates the local lenders' ability to support initiatives of this significance.

The new facility will play a key role in accelerating WPT’s development of its wireless network, which will increase access to high quality telephony across the general population and provide support and services for communities who have previously not had access to mobile communications.

In addition, the investment funding will help upgrade the overall quality and performance of the infrastructure for the Palestinian people.

WPT is owned and controlled by the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) and Wataniya Telecom of Kuwait.

Wataniya Telecom is majority-owned by Qatar Telecom Q.S.C. (Qtel), the diversified telecommunications group, which has pledged ongoing support for WPT’s efforts in Palestine.

Dr. Nasser Marafih, CEO, Qtel International, said: “Qtel is a firm supporter of long-term investment in Palestine’s communications infrastructure through Wataniya and the agreement announced today (Wednesday) is a key milestone in that development process.

“Qtel has set itself the target of becoming one of the world’s top 20 telecommunications companies by 2020, and our operations in high potential markets like Palestine will make a key contribution to that goal,” he added.

Dr. Mohammad Mustafa, Chairman and CEO of the Palestine Investment Fund stated, “This deal is the first of its kind in Palestine’s history. It demonstrates a vote of confidence by both international and local lenders in the future of the Palestinian developing economy and in Wataniya’s commercial success.

''PIF is proud of its role as a co-founder of WPT, our largest economic project since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.

“We are equally proud that our partnership with Wataniya Telecom and Qtel in this venture will offer customers high quality services and excellent value for money, while generating jobs and business opportunities for the small and medium businesses in Palestine,” he added.

Qtel and PIF have invested more than $200 million in Wataniya Palestine Telecom to finance license payments, set up the company and begin the build-out of the mobile telephony network.
Expectations are that commercial services will be rolled-out this year.

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