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Saudi Atheeb's internet start ends STC's monopoly

Etihad Atheeb Telecoms Co to start Saudi operations in Riyadh and Jeddah.

Etihad Atheeb Telecommunications Co said it started on Saturday high speed internet in Saudi Arabia's two largest cities, officially ending Saudi Telecom's (STC) monopoly on fixed-line phone services.

The firm would start operations in the Saudi capital Riyadh and the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, it said in a statement posted on the bourse's website, but did not say when it would begin voice services.

Atheeb is expected to face tough competition from STC and two other firms that won licences last year to offer fixed-line services.

The two other firms are Optical Communications Co, led by U.S. Verizon Communications Inc and Al Mutakamilah Company, which is led by Hong Kong's PCCW .

Etihad Atheeb has said it plans to invest $1bn over five years in its fixed-line operation and wants to target government and industrial hubs as well as regions covered insufficiently by STC.

Earlier this year, Atheeb raised SR300 ($80m) by selling 30 percent of its share capital in an initial public offering that was almost 2.5 times oversubscribed.

The IPO was Saudi Arabia's first since August after bourse regulators froze fresh listings after the global financial crisis hit local and global markets. (Reuters)