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Suitors eye Batelco stake

The Bahraini telco confirms several unnamed firms are looking to buy a share in the company as it downsizes operations.

Several firms are eyeing a stake in Bahrain Telecommunications Co. (Batelco), which plans to downsize its local operations, the firm's chief executive said in Monday's Bahrain's Gulf Daily News newspaper.

Peter Kaliaropoulos said it was too early to name suitors or outline the possible size of any stake sale, but said "sooner or later something will happen".

Shares in the firm surged more than six percent last week on rumours that the company was in talks to sell a 20 percent stake in the firm to a company in the Far East. Batelco denied this, saying the decision to sell a stake would be up to shareholders.

"What we are trying to do is make Batelco a lot more competitive. If we do that well, a number of companies are interested in buying a share of the business and there is no shortage of interested parties," Chief Executive Peter Kaliaropoulos said in the newspaper.

He also said the firm plans to cut its operations in Bahrain, where the firm is coming under increasing pressure from the country's telecoms watchdog to allow rival operators to use its telecoms infrastructure at cheaper rates.

"All companies downsize when competition comes in and we will probably be outsourcing operations," Kaliaropoulos said.

Batelco once enjoyed a monopoly in Bahrain, before the telecoms sector was liberalised in 2004. The firm still has the exclusive right to coordinate with Bahrain's government to build and maintain new infrastructure.

Earlier this month, Bahrain's telecoms watchdog invited suggestions as to how other operators could be involved in the process.

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