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Sun 22 Apr 2007 05:42 PM

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$266m Saudi telco in the pipeline

A Batelco-led group is set to end Saudi Telecom monopoly with new fixed-line phone network in the kingdom.

Bahrain Telecommunications Co. (Batelco) said on Sunday a consortium it is leading would set up a SAR1 billion ($266 million) company to run a fixed-line telephone operation in Saudi Arabia.

The consortium, in which Batelco holds 15%, was one of three that won initial approval on Saturday to operate Saudi Arabia's new fixed-line phone network, set to end the monopoly of Saudi Telecom Co.

Pending approval from the Saudi government, the new telecom firm would sell a 25% stake in an initial public offering, Batelco said in a statement, without giving a timeline.

Government bodies would hold 10% of the firm, it said.

The consortium, which also includes Saudi conglomerate Atheeb Group, would pay a fee of SAR500 million if it gets approval to offer radio spectrum services, Batelco said. The consortium would offer both fixed and wireless technologies.

Atheeb has interests ranging from telecommunications, real estate and agriculture.

Consortia led by Hong Kong's PCCW and Verizon Communications of the USA also got initial approval to offer fixed-line services in the kingdom, the Gulf Arab region's largest telecoms market.

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