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Middle East operators eye Indian expansion

Etisalat and Zain reveal details of their plans to expand in India

Middle East operators Etisalat and Zain have revealed further details of their planned investments in India.

Etisalat plans to invest $1 billion in India, where it has a minority stake in Swan Telecom, and hopes to start operations in 2009, the company’s chairman, Mohammed Hasan Omran told UAE daily, Khaleej Times, following the firm’s recent annual general meeting.

Omran said the investment in India would complement Etisalat’s other regional investments in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indonesia, according to the report.

Meanwhile, Kuwait-based mobile operator Zain said it was considering an acquisition in India, according to a Dow Jones newswire report. The company said it was looking at Datacom Solutions and Loop Telecom, both of which hold licenses to start mobile phone services across India.

Etisalat first signaled its interest in India in April 2008, and went on to acquire a 45% stake in India’s Swan Telecom for $900 million in September 2008.

In November, Saad Al- Barrak, Zain’s CEO, said the company was interested in Asian countries including India, but added that it was unlikely to make any acquisitions in the continent before 2011, as it was concentrating on the Middle East and Africa.