Qtel buys 33% stake in Philippines telco

Qatar firm continues expansion abroad with deal for Liberty Telecommunications Holdings Inc

Tags: InvestmentLiberty Telecoms Holdings IncorporatedPhilippinesQatarQatar Telecom
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Qtel buys 33% stake in Philippines telco NEW DEAL: Qtel has taken a 33 percent stake in Liberty Telecommunications Holdings. (Getty Images)
By  Rosemarie Francisco Published  August 11, 2009

Qatar Telecommunications Co bought 33 percent of Liberty Telecommunications Holdings Inc, the chairman of the dormant Philippine firm said on Wednesday, as Qtel pursues overseas expansion.

"Yes," Ramon Ang, chairman of Liberty and president of San Miguel Corp, said in a mobile text message on Wednesday when asked whether Qatar Telecoms was the buyer of two blocks of Liberty shares worth 1.37 billion pesos ($29 million) in the stock market on Tuesday.

The transaction, involving 426.8 million shares, is equivalent to 33 percent of Liberty's outstanding shares.

Last year, San Miguel and state-controlled Qtel entered into a deal to venture into wireless broadband and mobile phone services in the Philippines using Liberty as a vehicle.

Qtel has been expanding rapidly outside its home market, aiming to join the ranks of the world's top 20 telecoms firms by 2020.

San Miguel, through its wholly owned subsidiary Vega Telecom Inc, acquired 32.7 percent of Liberty for almost 1.9 billion pesos in July, in line with an earlier commitment to invest up to 49 percent in the telecoms firm.

In June, San Miguel's Ang said the group was still finetuning the business plan for the telecoms venture with Qtel.

San Miguel has been diversifying away from its core food and drinks business by buying into highly regulated and capital-intensive sectors such as power, oil refinering, water utilities, and telecommunications - a move it hopes would fuel faster growth in the future.

It has been selling major blocks of shares in its key food and drinks businesses to fund its new ventures and analysts said San Miguel currently sits on about $2 billion in cash from its series of divestments, including a major stake in its flagship brewery business.

Last year, San Miguel bought a 27 percent stake in power retailer Manila Electric Co, hoping to piggyback on its retail electricity network to offer telecoms services.

But San Miguel is in the middle of an ownership battle for Manila Electric, as dominant phone firm PLDT has also bought into the power firm to protect its top position in the telecoms markets. (Reuters)

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