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Qtel completes Pakistan buy

The Qatari operator has finalised its purchase of a majority stake in Pakistan's Burraq Telecom.

Qatar Telecommunications (Qtel) has completed the purchase of a majority stake in a telecom operator in Pakistan, it said today.

Qtel and Saudi Arabia's A.A. Turki for Trading and Contracting agreed in April to pay $12.3 million for a 75% stake in Pakistan's Burraq Telecom, which offers international calling, wireless telephone and broadband internet services.

"Pakistan, with a population base of 160 million people, is an important growth market," Qtel chief executive Nasser Marafih said in a statement.

Burraq plans to invest about $80 million in the next few years in wireless networks in Pakistan, Qtel said.

Qtel is expanding outside of Qatar as the country prepares to sell a second mobile phone licence this year, ending the last Arab telecoms monopoly. Qatar will also sell a second fixed-line licence.

Burraq is the second key acquisition for Qtel this year after it captured Kuwait's National Mobile Telecommunications Company (Wataniya) in March for $3.72 billion.

Burraq is a newly formed operator that is setting up a long distance and international transmission network in Pakistan, according to the company's web site.

Qtel is not the first regional operator to invest in Pakistan's telecoms market; the UAE's Etisalat bought a 26% stake in Pakistan Telecommunications Company for US$2.6 billion in 2005.