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Mideast Movers & Shakers

7:35 AM -- There's no shortage of expansion funds in the Middle East, where some of the most ambitious operators continue to snap up overseas assets. (See Who Does What: Middle East Carriers and Competition Drives Mideast M&A.)

  • A consortium led by Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has won a license to become the third mobile operator in Iran. The consortium plans to invest more than $1 billion in its network, which is set to go live before the end of 2009. Check out this informative report in UAE's The National for more details.

    Etisalat, one of the leading players in the Middle East telecom market, has its eyes on the Iraq market, too, and is in talks to buy an operator there, according to this Reuters report. (See Etisalat Tops 74M Subs and FT's Notable New Friend.)

  • In Lebanon, regional powerhouses Orascom Telecom and Zain Group have reportedly been awarded deals to run the country's two mobile networks while the sector's privatization process remains on hold. See this Reuters report for the full details.

  • Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) appears to be the only bidder for Bahrain's third mobile license, according to this Reuters story.
  • Vodafone Qatar, the fledgling operator in which Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) holds a 22.95 percent stake, is set to begin operations on March 1, according to this report from Arabian Business. (See V'fone Receives Qatar License.)

    Vodafone Qatar's planned IPO is yet to happen, though. The public listing, required under Qatar's licensing rules, was originally set for October 2008 but was postponed. A new IPO timetable is due to be announced in February, according to this story from the Gulf Times. (See Vodafone Plans Qatar IPO.)

    — Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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