The UAE’s Etisalat Group remains open to acquisition opportunities and would not rule out another play for Zain Group, according to Ahmad Julfar, Group CEO, Etisalat.
“Opportunities will appear in the region, and will come in different forms. It may not come in the form of a green field licence; it may come as an existing operator in the region, similar, for example, to the discussion we had to acquire 51% of Zain Group,” Julfar told CommsMEA.
He stressed that Etisalat, which has a presence in 18 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, would be more likely to acquire an existing operator than a green field licence, in order to maximise shareholder value.
“We are very prudent in our investments because we want to bring quicker return to our shareholders, so acquiring an existing profitable operator is more aligned to our strategy than acquiring a green field licence,” he said.
Julfar added that the current economic climate, combined with political unrest in the region, has made it more likely that acquisition opportunities will arise.
“We see some opportunities will come as a result of the financial or economic crisis or as a result of the unrest that is happening in the Middle East, so I think both challenges will produce opportunities for acquisitions.”
Furthermore, despite failing to agree terms to acquire a 51% stake in Kuwait’s Zain Group in June, Etisalat would not rule out making another play for the Kuwait operator if the right circumstances arose.
“That [Zain] negotiation is over, so from both parties we agreed to call it off because we could not conclude it in the proper time. It may come in the future, in one shape or form,” Julfar said.