By Shane McGinley
Europe’s third largest telecom operator looking to acquire stake in Iraqi mobile operator Korek Telecom – report
France Telecom, Europe's third largest telecoms operator, is planning to expand further into the region by targeting investments and acquisitions in Iraq.
The Financial Times reported France Telecom was looking to acquire a share in Korek Telecom, Iraq's third largest mobile phone operator, as part of a strategy to expand in the Middle East.
"Iraq is an area of strategic interest for France Telecom and we are studying opportunites that could exist there," a France Telecom spokesman said, without commenting on Korek.
The newspaper cited people familiar with the situation saying the deal could give Korek an enterprise value of $1.5bn and France Telecom could eventually acquire a controlling stake in the company.
Korek, based in Iraq's Kurdish run north, competes with Zain and AsiaCell, which is partly owned by Qatar Telecommunications (Qtel).
The mobile phone market has boomed since the US led invasion of 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein, with the total customer base of the main providers tripling to around 10m consumers in the past two years.
France Telecom began looking for emerging market opportunities as a way to offset sluggish demand and intense competition in Europe. It plans to double revenue in emerging markets by 2015, largely through acquisitions.
In September it bought a 40 percent stake in Moroccan telecoms company Meditel and it is also looking to acquire a 3G license in Syria, the spokesman said.