Posts filed under ‘Bahrain’
Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has extended a deadline for pre-paid mobile phone users to register their details to 31 March, because there still remain a significant number of unregistered subscribers. TRA general director Alan Horne said that only around half of an estimated 700,000 pre-paid users had registered by the original deadline on 31 December, and that ‘it could have been massive shock to the economy and to the telecom system of the country by taking such a big number of mobiles off the network.’ The registration scheme was introduced in the interests of public safety, security and to combat the use of mobile networks for illicit purposes.
The board of Qatar Telecom (Qtel) has decided to delist the company’s shares from the Bahrain Stock Exchange (BSE) on 26 February 2009, according to a press release. The Qatari group said it took the decision because of consistently low volume trading of its shares on the BSE and the incremental administrative requirements inherent in the group’s multiple share listings, necessitated by its recent international expansion. Qtel does not anticipate that the delisting will adversely affect the liquidity of the stock, its shareholders or other investors. Qtel listed on the Doha Securities Market in 1998, the BSE in 2001, the Abu Dhabi Securities Market in 2002, and also has a global depositary receipt (GDR) listing on the London bourse (since 1999). Its 51%-owned subsidiary Wataniya Telecom is listed on the Kuwait stock market, whilst the group is currently attempting to take majority control of Indonesian operator Indosat.
In related news, Qtel is reportedly preparing to sell further shares to finance its continuing international acquisition strategy, after ruling out increasing its debt pile to fund new purchases of licences or operators. Qtel initially relied on debt financing to fund its expansion into 17 countries, and by the end of September 2008 its consolidated debt was over QAR29 billion (USD8 billion), compared with around QAR1 billion at the end of 2006. The Qatari government participated in Qtel’s QAR5.86 billion (USD1.6 billion) rights issue in June 2008 to help fund further acquisitions. In 1998 45% of the company’s equity was sold to the public and government-related agencies. No single entity (other than the state) may own over 10% of Qtel’s capital (with telecoms firms limited to 5%).
Saudi Telecom company (STC) has won Bahrain’s third mobile network operating licence with a bid of BHD86.7 million (USD231 million), the country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) announced yesterday, breaking the duopoly of state-run Batelco and Kuwaiti-owned Zain. According to Reuters, STC plans to launch its Bahraini operations in the second half of this year and aims to acquire a 20% market share in ten years. The Saudi telco has also committed itself to establishing a USD300 million venture capital fund in Bahrain that will nurture communications and IT companies in the region. Three other firms had registered interest in the auction, but did not bid. Mohammed al-Amer, chairman of the TRA, confirmed that these were Bahraini operators 2Connect and Mena Telecom alongside a consortium including France Telecom subsidiary Jordan Telecom. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have strong links, as several million people cross a causeway linking the two kingdoms every year.
The Indian telecom story is gaining muscle. The latest to join the world’s second largest telecom market is Bahrain’s Batelco which has signed a deal to buy 49% in Chennai-based S-Tel, a GSM service provider, for $225 million.
The Indian telecom company has licences to operate in six circles in Bihar, Orissa, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, North East and Assam.
Santosh Robert, director, S-Tel, said the deal would enable his company to partner with an experienced operator for the GSM roll-out which is slated for the middle of this year.
Batelco has partnered with Millennium Private Equity (MPE), a Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA)-regulated entity to form Batelco Millennium India Company Ltd (BMICL) a special purpose vehicle to purchase the shares in S Tel. The transaction would go in for formal approvals and it is expected to become operational upon receiving regulatory approval by the end of April this year.
S-Tel was established to gain entry into the rapidly growing mobile markets of north east and north-west India. The population in these areas is approximately 230 million and mobile penetration rate is less than 20%. “We will focus on delivering innovation and value, and aspires to grow rapidly to respond to the needs of these largely untapped areas,” Robert said.
Besides, Batelco being a mid-sized operator has a medium appetite for investment found S-Tel very attractive. “They were clear that they did not want to invest in a pan-India operator, instead were looking at a smaller company to invest, which is where we fit in very well,” Robert said.
S-Tel is a Chennai-based company promoted by Skycity Foundations (P) Ltd and Telecom Investments, Mauritius. The company received unified access services licenses (UASL) and start-up spectrum in six category C circles, besides a category A all India internet service provider (ISP) licence.
Other major telecom deals include NTT DoCoMo’s 26% stake buy in Tata Tele for $2.70 billion, Etilasat’s 45% equity purchase in Swan Telecom for $900 million and Telenor’s buy of 60% in Unitech Wireless for $1.23 billion.
Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) announced in a statement yesterday that Saudi Telecom Company (STC) was the only applicant to bid for the country’s third mobile licence by the deadline on Sunday 11 January. The watchdog had previously reported that four international operators had been pre-qualified, before saying closer to the deadline that two hopefuls had confirmed their interest, whilst domestic alternative telco 2Connect announced last week that it was racing to complete a joint application with Saudi Arabian cellco Etihad Etisalat (Mobily). STC confirmed that it had placed a bid in a statement to the Saudi stock exchange. The TRA will evaluate the financial offer on 22 January after verifying STC meets technical requirements. The news scotches rumours that STC would attempt to buy a government-owned stake in Bahrain’s former monopoly fixed line and mobile operator Batelco, as the TRA has indicated it would disallow the third cellular licensee from doing so on anti-competitive grounds.
Bahrain-based alternative telco 2Connect and Saudi Arabian cellco Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) will place a joint bid for the third mobile licence in Bahrain, reports Gulf Daily News. 2Connect said that it had been looking at bringing in other partners but there was not enough time before Sunday’s deadline, adding that there could be an opportunity for other investors to come onboard in the future, alongside a possible IPO. According to the newspaper, TRA general director Alan Horne said that two other operators had already confirmed they would be bidding for the licence.