[arab news] Emirates Telecommunications Corp., or Etisalat, is eyeing licenses for airwaves or acquisition deals in six markets across the Middle East and North Africa, its chairman said, in a drive to boost customers.
The Gulf Arab region's second-largest telecommunications firm by market value has been aggressively expanding outside the United Arab Emirates since its monopoly there was broken by Dubai-based du in 2007.
Earlier this month the Abu Dhabi-based operator said it had sought approval to raise its stake in its Indian affiliate and taken control of Atlantique Telecom in Africa.
In a statement on Thursday, company Chairman Mohammad Omran said there were six markets in the Middle East and North Africa which Etisalat was investigating for both acquisitions or new licenses within markets that are underserved by phone services.
"Etisalat is in an excellent position -- financially and operationally to capitalize on these opportunities," Omran said, without giving further details.
Omran was quoted by UAE daily The National on Thursday as saying the firm was interested in buying Djezzy, the Algerian unit of Egypt's Orascom Telecom.
Orascom is currently appealing against a $597 million tax bill Algeria says Djezzy owes. It is also in the process of raising $800 million via a rights issue to cover any potential cash shortfall.
Orascom Telecom could secure $6-7 billion if it chooses to sell Djezzy, but might have to accept far less if forced out by the government, analysts told Reuters on Wednesday.
Etisalat, which this week said it had crossed the 100 million subscriber mark, operates in 18 countries, stretching from Tanzania to Indonesia and including Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The firm submitted a bid in July for a license in Libya and has previously indicated its interest in acquiring a company in Iraq and bidding for licenses in Lebanon and Syria. It failed last year in a bid to take a stake in Meditel, Morocco's second-largest telecommunications' firm and had its licence withdrawn in Iran.
Omran told The National, Etisalat had re-entered negotiations with Korek Telecom in Iraq and for Meditel in Morocco. It was also looking to take a stake in Warid Telecom in Pakistan, currently majority owned by Abu Dhabi Group, an investment firm owned by the emirate's royal family.
It is also keen to raise its minority stake in Indonesia's Exelcomindo, Omran said.
Etisalat shares closed 1.7 percent up on Thursday, outperforming the market, which ended 0.3 percent higher.
Etisalat eyes six acquisitions, licenses