By Andrew White
EXCLUSIVE: Bahrain's biggest telco targets North Africa as part of expansion plan.
Bahrain’s biggest telco is set to spend as much as $2bn on acquisitions in North Africa over the next twelve months.
Bahrain Telecommunications Company, known as Batelco, will invest in a number of existing operators across the region.
“The investments in existing companies that we’re looking at right now, will be up to $2bn,” Batelco Group CEO Peter Kaliaropoulos told Arabian Business in an interview.
“We’re looking for a cluster; we will probably invest in four or five operations [in North Africa].”
Batelco is the island state’s incumbent operator, and the largest player in a market widely considered to be one of the most competitive in the Middle East. The company posted a net profit of $69.8m for Q1 2009.
Kaliaropoulos added that the group was looking to take advantage of distressed assets in the market, to expand its presence outside the Middle East and Asia, where it recently took a 49% stake in Indian start-up S Tel.
“Our first preference is always an existing company that has just broken even or is about to break even,” he said. “A year ago the prices were sky high, but now we’ve got banks coming to us and saying ‘we’ve funded this shareholder and this investor, but now they can’t pay their interest bill’.
"There are quite a few bargains in the market...Whoever says they’re not in the market right now, is not telling the truth.
“We have proposals on the table to lend us billions of dollars,” he added. “If it’s a new licence, we don’t have to borrow and we can do it on our own. But if it’s an existing company we’ll most likely go to the market for a major facility.”