Etisalat looks to expand its overseas operations

Bids for stakes in Greek, Sri Lankan and Yemen operators

The UAE’s telecom operator Etisalat is looking to further expand its overseas operations by taking controlling stakes in Greek, Sri Lankan and Yemen mobile phone operators.

The telecommunications operator, currently the sole provider of telecommunications services in the UAE, has put in a non-binding bid for Greek company TIM Hellas and is negotiating stakes in Sri Lankan Telecom and Yemen mobile operator Sabafon, according to a report by Reuters.

“We are committed to being the first and foremost choice for our customers in the UAE and overseas markets in which we operate,” Etisalat chairman Mohammed Hassan Omran said as he announced the company’s third quarter results.

Omran also reaffirmed Etisalat’s goal to be listed among the top 10 telecom operators in the world by 2010.

With the arrival of its first competitor in the UAE market, du, expected at the end of the year, Etisalat is keen to boost its overseas business in order to provide balance against the competition it will face on its domestic territory.

In addition to the UAE, Etisalat has investments in Saudi Arabian unit Mobily, pan-African mobile operator Atlantique Telecom, Pakistan phone company PTCL, satellite company Thuraya, Sudanese fixed-line phone firm Canartel, Qatar’s Qtel, Zanzibar Telecom and Sudan’s Sudatel.

Etisalat also has a stake in the consortium that won the bid for Egypt’s third mobile licence in July.

For the nine months to September 30, Etisalat reported a 36% rise in net profit to US$1.19 billion over the first nine months of 2005.

Operating profits for the nine-month period also jumped 36%, reaching US$1.13 billion while revenues rose 26% to US$3.27 billion.

Results were better than expected, analysts said, helped by strong mobile subscriber additions and strong performances by its Saudi Arabian unit Mobily and pan-African mobile operator Atlantique Telecom.

Mobile services grew 22% for Etisalat in the first nine months of 2006 in comparison with the first nine months of 2005.

The telco now has 5.26 million subscribers to its mobile services.

Internet subscribers, including broadband connections, touched 630,000, up 34% over 2005.

Fixed line subscribers rose by a more modest 4% to reach 1.28 million.

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