UAE telco Etisalat wants piece of Libyan market

Reuters, Monday 13 Feb 2012

Gulf's leading telecom firm Etisalat sets sights on Libya licence, hopes to invest in one of North African nation's existing operators

Etisalat, the Gulf's largest telecom firm, wants to acquire a licence in Libya or invest in one of the North African country's existing operators, its chairman told Reuters on Monday.

Libya has two state mobile operators, Madar and Libyana, while another government-linked firm, Lap Green Networks, is active in several African countries including Uganda and Ivory Coast.

"We have shown to the Libyan government our interest [in] the possibility to participate in the development of the telecoms market in Libya, either by a new licence or even by operating or investing in one of the existing mobile licences," Mohammad Omran said on the sidelines of an event in Tripoli.

When asked if Etisalat was in negotiations with the Libyan government on potentially buying into the telecoms sector, Omran said: "There are no official talks."

Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat bid for Libya's third mobile licence in 2009, but the licence was never awarded.

The former monopoly, which is 60 per cent owned by the government, is active in 17 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, yet its home market provides about three-quarters of revenue, according to its third-quarter results.

Etisalat's foreign acquisitions have been mixed. On Thursday, it wrote off the $827 million value of its operation in India. But its Saudi Arabian affiliate, Mobily, is among the top picks for Gulf telecoms analysts.

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