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Etisalat eyes stake in Omantel

UAE operator signals interest in buying stake in telco, part of which gov't of Oman is looking to sell.

Etisalat on Wednesday signalled an interest in buying a stake in Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel), a part of which the government of Oman is looking to sell.

It is the first publicly expressed interest in the bigger of Oman's two telecom operators since the government said on October 3 that it plans to sell a stake to a long-term investor.

Omantel stock has since surged more than 31%. It was up almost 10% at 0638 GMT. "Are we interested? I say yes," Jamal Al-Jarwan, Chief Executive of Etisalat International Investments, told Reuters. "Oman is a growth market, and there are synergies for us in the Middle East."

Jarwan said he expected the sale to include a contract to manage Omantel.

"Oman is in the Middle East and it is a neighbour of ours," said Jarwan. "Our relations with them are close."

Middle East Economic Digest (Meed) reported last week that the Omani government could sell as much as 19% of the company immediately. It did not say how it got the information.

The government owns 70% of Omantel and the rest is traded on the Omani exchange. It has not given any details about the sale process. Questions to the Minister of Economy, who is managing the sale, have not yet been answered. - Reuters

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