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STC to expand after target breaking year

Foreign revenues for Saudi Telecom Co hit 21% last year which is way above the 10% target.

Saudi Telecom Co (STC) is planning to explore more expansion opportunities after revenues generated by its acquisitions abroad exceeded initial targets, it was reported on Saturday.

"STC has exceeded the initially announced target of making 10 percent of its revenues from foreign expansions as we have up to now generated 21 percent," chief executive Saud al-Duweish was quoted as saying by Al Riyadh newspaper.

"The company will work to foster the gains of the acquisitions it has already made ... and will continue to search and examine acquisition opportunities in the region," he added, but gave no more details.

STC, the Arab world's largest telecom company by market value, spent around $3.5 billion in 2008 on a 35 percent stake in Oger Telecom and a 26 percent stake in a consortium that won Kuwait's third mobile phone licence.

In 2007, STC paid $3 billion for a stake in Malaysia's Maxis.

More recently, STC won Bahrain's third mobile licence after bidding $230 million.

STC is under intense pressure to improve profitability as a regional telecom war heats up, with rivals like Kuwait's Zain and Emirates Telecommunications competing within Saudi Arabia.

STC will also lose in 2009 its monopoly on Saudi Arabia's fixed-line services with the entry of three new operators at once.

The company posted a worse-than-expected 62 percent fall in fourth-quarter profit after losing 2 billion riyals ($533.3 million) to foreign currency fluctuations on acquisitions it made in 2008.

Duweish said the number of STC's customers increased 10 percent in 2008, with mobile phone clients rising by 15 percent.

"We expect this growth to continue this year," he said. (Reuters)

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