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Mon 29 Oct 2007 03:15 PM

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Batelco to splash $4bn on international expansion

Bahraini operator plans to buy telecom operators rather than bidding for licences.

Bahraini operator Batelco, facing growing competition at home, said on Monday it would spend up to $4 billion to expand abroad.

Batelco would buy telecom operators rather than bidding for licences, Chief Executive Peter Kaliaropoulos told reporters in Manama.

"Our preference is for big acquisitions... about $2 to $4 billion to buy companies of the size of Batelco," Kaliaropoulos told reporters.

"There are not many licences being offered in the Middle East," he added. "If you are going to grow you have no option but to acquire existing operations."

Bahrain opened up its telecommunications market to competition in 2004, but Batelco retains a monopoly on fixed lines, internet and datacomm services in the kingdom.

Batelco's profit jumped 11.8% to 25.91 million dinars in the third quarter 2007, its second-biggest profit ever.

Batelco makes 90% of its profit in Bahrain, Kaliaropoulos said. "That will fall over time," he said.

The profitability of the Bahrain business would decline in the next few years, he said, without being more specific.

Third-quarter revenue climbed 20.4% to 76.8 million dinars, Batelco said. Profit from affiliates was 534,000 dinars, compared with nothing in the year-earlier period, it said.

Batelco has come under increasing pressure from Bahrain's telecom watchdog to allow competitors to use its infrastructure to provide services, encouraging it to look overseas for growth. - Reuters

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