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Wed 16 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Investcom hits four million

With eight operations across the Middle East, Africa and Europe, the Lebanon-based mobile operator has upped its subscribers base from 3.3 million in June.

Lebanese-based mobile operator Investcom has passed the four million-subscriber mark among its eight operations across the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Investcom owns and operates mobile services in Syria, Yemen, Benin, Ghana, Liberia, Sudan, Guinea Bissau and Cyprus, most under the Areeba brand. According to CEO Azmi Mikati, the company had 3.3 million subscribers in total at the end of June. The newest addition to the Areeba label, Investcom’s Sudanese business, now has 200,000 subscribers using the network after launching in July.

Licenses were recently won in Afghanistan and Guinea, bringing Investcom’s total number of markets up to 10.

According to Marten Pieters, CEO at pan-African operator Celtel, Investcom could be a target for the bigger operators. “In my point of view, Investcom could be more subject to acquisition than establishing its own position. It’s a typical example of a group that could be taken over or merged with another to form a bigger entity,” says Pieters.

Niam Kawas, operations director at Investcom, is confident the company can hold its own: “We think we can grow on our own, and we’re still looking for new opportunities for us to grow. Today we’re committed to expanding.”

Greenfield opportunities such as the third mobile licence in Saudi Arabia form part of the company’s expansion agenda, according to Kawas, despite the inevitable interest from rival big-name operators such as MTC Group.

Investcom launched an IPO on the Dubai International Financial Exchange in October, raising US$741 million, and Kawas says the money will definitely be used for further expansion. “Either geographic expansion or expansion in our existing operations, maybe increasing our ownership in some of these operations, depending on what opportunities we have,” she says.

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