Qtel says no plans for near-term acquisitions

But telco has not ruled out bidding for a UAE mobile licence, should one be offered
Qtel says no plans for near-term acquisitions
By Ed Attwood
Sun 16 Oct 2011 12:02 PM

Qtel Group, Qatar’s incumbent telco, is waiting for further
consolidation in the telecoms sector before carrying out any further
acquisitions, the firm’s chief executive has said.

“There are no plans to go into any countries for the coming
short period,” group CEO Nasser Marafih told Arabian Business. “But we know
there will be opportunities in the coming years, because the market will need
to consolidate.”

Marafih said the process of consolidation was being slowed
down by high valuations placed on assets, and that the business environment for
standalone telcos would become more precarious over time. 

“I think that people need to realise that those valuations
are not viable, especially in the coming two or three years,” he added.

In the interim, Qtel will focus on developing broadband infrastructure
in all its international markets, and is also aiming to get 3G licences in
those countries which don’t have the technology.

But Marafih confirmed that Qtel remains interested in mobile
licences in Syria and Libya, although he said that the firm would have to wait
and see how the political situation evolves in both countries.

He also confirmed that the group was in still discussions
with the Iraqi government over listing its Asiacell subsidiary, and that Qtel
was still intending to list its unit in Tunisia, although it was “not a major
priority”. 

Closer to home, Marafih said that he would not rule out
bidding for a third mobile licence in the UAE, should the situation arise, but
that this had not been considered yet.

“The UAE also has very high mobile penetration coverage, but
I’m not sure about their quality of service or how happy their customers are –
that’s something that the regulator there would know more about,” he said.

“I know that we have not looked at the UAE for a third licence
until now, and until that becomes a reality, we will evaluate the situation
then.”

The Qtel CEO also ruled out any bond issuances in the short
term, saying that the company was “very comfortable with its infrastructure and
funding at this stage.”

The firm’s last bond sale, for $1.5bn towards the end of
last year, was ten times oversubscribed. 

The Qtel Group has a presence in seventeen countries in the
Middle East and Asia, with 77.5m subscribers in total. Its principal markets
are Qatar, Indonesia, Kuwait and Iraq.

The combined group’s net profit rose by 17.9 percent in the
second quarter to $184m, helped by demand for broadband and growth in its
Wataniya portfolio.

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