Qtel says no plans for near-term acquisitions

But telco has not ruled out bidding for a UAE mobile licence, should one be offered.
Marafih said that Qtel has no plans to expand in more countries in the short term.
Marafih said that Qtel has no plans to expand in more countries in the short term.

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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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