Etisalat to focus on expansion in Arab markets

Telco remains interested in India but says focus will be on Arab countries

Tags: Etisalat International - UAEMergers and acquisitionsUnited Arab Emirates
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Etisalat to focus on expansion in Arab markets Mohammed Omran said Etisalat is interested in expanding into Arab markets including Syria and Lebanon. (ITP Images)
By  Roger Field Published  September 28, 2010

UAE telco Etisalat remains committed to international expansion but intends to focus more on Arab countries, according to the company's chairman, Mohammed Omran.

Omran said that while the company remains in talks with "many" operators in India, it intends to keep its expansion plans, including M&A and the acquisition of new licences, focused mainly on Arab countries.

"When we talk about international, definitely the landscape has changed, but still, in the Arab countries there is the possibility of expansion, either by acquiring existing operators or by getting a new licence. That is one of our main focuses as a company," Omran told CommsMEA.

 "In other countries it depends, but at this moment in time our focus in mainly on the Arabic."

Omran also confirmed that Etisalat will be bidding for Syria's third mobile licence, which he expects to happen toward the end of this year or early next year.

"According to the feedback I received, I would expect some bidding to be done toward the end of this year or early next year," he said. "We have decided to bid for Syria."

Omran added that while Etisalat was also "definitely" interested in Lebanon, he was not aware of any moves by the country's government to open the market up or sell either of the existing operations.

Etisalat, which entered into talks with Indian telco Reliance Communications earlier this year, is also continuing to hold talks with "many" operators in India, according to Omran.

"At this stage there is no decision to go with one operator. But I think over the coming few months there will be more clearance on the way forward," he said.

"When we arrive on something good for our shareholders that is also good for the Indian market and good for this new partner, then we can make a decision."

Meanwhile, Etisalat is continuing to invest in its own Indian venture, EtisalatDB, in line with its licencing agreements.

"We have a licence and a commitment to the regulator to start services in certain areas and we have already started work on that," Omran said.

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