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Tue 26 Feb 2008 09:49 AM

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New Saudi fixed-line telecoms get final approval

Consortiums led by Bahrain's Batelco, Hong Kong's PCCW and US-based Verizon.

Consortiums led by Bahrain's Batelco, Hong Kong's PCCW and US-based Verizon Communications won final approval on Monday to operate new Saudi fixed-line phone networks.

The official news agency SPA said the Saudi cabinet approved a decision under which the three new firms set up to operate the fixed-line services would sell 25% of their shares in initial public offerings (IPOs), 10% to a state pension fund and 5% to a social insurance body.

Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy, had given initial approval to the three groups in April after short-listing them from 10 applicants for licences to end the monopoly of state-controlled Saudi Telecom Company (STC).

The consortium of Batelco and Saudi Arabia's Atheeb group plans to invest $1 billion in its fixed-line operation in the first five years of business, Atheeb's chairman said on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia had liberalised mobile phone services earlier.

STC lost its mobile monopoly to Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) in 2005, while a consortium led by Kuwait's Zain won a third mobile licence in March. (Reuters)

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