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Qtel buys stake in Pakistan telco

$12.3m deal marks further foreign expansion as Qtel loses its Qatar monopoly.

Qatar Telecommunications Co. (Qtel) said it and a Saudi partner agreed to buy a majority stake in Pakistan wireless Internet broadband provider Burraq Telecom for $12.3 million.

The agreement with Saudi Arabia's A.A.Turki Corp. for Trading and Contracting (Atco) still needs regulatory approval, Qtel said in a statement on Wednesday. Qatar's Peninsula newspaper reported the agreement earlier today.

Qtel is seeking to expand outside Qatar as the Gulf Arab state prepares to sell a second mobile phone licence, ending Qtel's monopoly.

Qtel took control of Kuwait's National Mobile Telecommunications Co. (Wataniya) in March for $3.72 billion, the largest Gulf Arab telecom acquisition.

Burraq Telecom is a newly formed company which is setting up a long distance and international transmission network in Pakistan, according to the company's website. Qtel has operations in Oman, Indonesia and Singapore.

Qatar, home to 840,000 people and with a mobile penetration of more than 100%, invited expressions of interest in the country's second-mobile licence this week.

Facing rising competition at home, Gulf Arab telecom operators are hunting for foreign assets. Emirates Telecommunications Corp. (Etisalat) bought a 26% stake in Pakistan Telecommunication Co. Ltd. for $2.6 billion in 2005.