Virgin Mobile consortium to list shares in Oman

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson

A consortium that includes Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa (VMMEA) will list its shares on the Oman bourse within five years as a condition of winning a licence to provide telecom services in the Gulf Arab state.

Connect Arabia International (CAI) was awarded a 15-year licence that will require the company to sell 40 percent of its shares through an initial public offering on Muscat's bourse, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said in an email.

The licence will cost OR20,000 ($51,900), the regulator added.

In the Gulf, telecoms licences are sometimes awarded for minimal fees to encourage buyers to invest in developing their services.

VMMEA chief executive Mikkel Vinter said his company was part of a consortium that owns CAI, but he declined to reveal the size of its holding.

VMMEA, part-owned by British entrepreneur Richard Branson's Virgin Group, is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).

These typically lease capacity from established operators and pay them a percentage of their revenue as well as fees.

Oman is the only Gulf country where MVNOs have started operations. These compete with the sultanate's two conventional telecom operators, Omantel and Nawras, a unit of Ooredoo.

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