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Batelco acquires stake in SabaFon

Bahraini telco Batelco is to buy a 20% share in SabaFon, the leading mobile operator in Yemen, as part of plans to expand its international operations.

Bahraini telco Batelco is to buy a 20% share in SabaFon, the leading mobile operator in Yemen, as part of plans to expand its international operations.

The operator announced this week it is purchasing the shares for US$144million in cash from SabaFon's largest shareholder, and company chairman, Sheikh Hameed Al Ahmar. Despite the sale, the Al Ahmar Group will remain SabaFon's largest shareholder.

Batelco said the investment would allow it to enter the rapidly growing mobile market in Yemen, which has a population of over 22 million and approximately 12% mobile penetration.

"Our involvement with SabaFon and the Al Ahmar Group will also allow us to target other adjacent markets for mobile services and boost Batelco's strategic long term plans," said Batelco chief executive Peter Kaliaropoulos.

SabaFon is the largest GSM mobile operator in Yemen with around 1.2 million mobile subscribers.

Batelco said it planned to continue its regional expansion drive through targeted acquisitions of other operators and licences. The operator is focusing on regional expansion to help offset the loss of domestic revenues caused by the deregulation of Bahrain's telecommunications market.

Batelco is also seeking to obtain the fixed services licence currently under offer in Saudi Arabia.

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