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Sun 1 Oct 2006 04:00 AM

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i2 growth strategy to tap emerging markets

Mobile handset retailer and distributor plans massive commercial expansion.

i2, which claims to be the region’s largest mobile phone distributor and retailer with more than 350 retail outlets, has revealed plans to further boost its presence in emerging markets in Africa, while consolidating its position in the Middle East.

Over the past 12 months, the company has expanded its regional presence to include Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and the Ivory Coast, and is in the process of finalising several corporate acquisitions.

i2 last month finalised the takeover of Dubai-based mobile value-added services and mobile marketing provider Cellempower. i2’s relationship with Cellempower began as a founding stakeholder with 12.5% ownership.

The Cellempower acquisition offers i2 numerous benefits including commercial access to 10 cellular network operators across the Middle East.

“This acquisition will enable us to better serve our customers and our partners through the consolidation of our position in regional markets,” said i2’s president and chief executive, Abdul Hameed Al Sunaid.

“Together we will have stronger bundling programmes, content, applications and several new offerings that will benefit end users by leveraging i2’s strong distribution and retail network.”

Al Sunaid claimed current market trends indicated that consumers’ purchasing decisions were being increasingly influenced by the availability of value added service options. He cited industry research, which projected the total value of these value-added services in the Middle East to rise from US$350 million in 2005 to US$1.7 billion by 2010.

“With the number of mobile subscribers worldwide predicted to reach 3.96 billion by 2011, i2 is taking the necessary steps to maintain its position as the leading mobile distributor in the region,” said Al Sunaid.

“Our new business and marketing drive focuses on three main issues: new markets, strategic acquisitions, and an invigorated retail presence.”

i2, which is an authorised Nokia distributor, currently boasts a presence in 20 countries across the Middle East and Africa. Al Sunaid said both markets offered huge commercial potential, citing research that suggested that Middle East and African cellular subscribers would number 122 million and 378 million respectively by 2011.

“The number of subscribers in Africa is estimated to be one ninth of the continent’s total population of 900 million,” added Bashar AlKadhi, VP Africa - i2 Group.

“We expect the number of subscribers to increase in the near future, particularly with the surge in popularity of mobile versus fixed line [services].”

The Middle East also represented a crucial market for i2, AlKadhi said, with many countries in the region experiencing rapid growth in mobile penetration levels in recent years.

“Our efforts in the Middle East will be focused on expanding our retail presence with innovative concepts that revolve around offering consumers a unique retail experience that goes beyond just selling handsets,” he said.

Al Subaid cited industry forecasts that predicted data services would contribute 30% of total telecom operators’ revenue over the next three to five years. SMS services are the most popular of these and currently constitute a 50-60% share of non-voice revenues.

“Our mission is to increase i2’s value for our customers, partners and stakeholders,” said Sunaid.

“As a result we have big plans ahead of us which include new acquisitions, new market penetration and retail expansion.”

In other news, Nokia has named i2 its number one distributor for the North and East African (NEA) regions. i2 Egypt officially received the Best Distributor for Nokia NEA award in Tunisia last month.

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