Etisalat Group eyes expansion opportunities

Telco keeps an eye on potential for growth via partnerships, alliances and M&A
Ahmed Julfar said that Etisalat Group sees opportunities for inorganic international growth in the coming 18 months.
Ahmed Julfar said that Etisalat Group sees opportunities for inorganic international growth in the coming 18 months.

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The UAE’s Etisalat Group sees potential for international expansion in the coming 18 months across the MEA region and Asia, Ahmed Julfar, group CEO, Etisalat, told CommsMEA.

Julfar said that the MEA region had been “very quiet over the last three years in terms of M&A activity”, mainly due to the global financial and economic situation, and that this was likely to produce some good opportunities for telecom operators and investors in the region.

“So far we are keeping our eye open for these opportunities when they come. We believe some good opportunities will come over the next 12-18 months. We are focused on the whole MENA region, and parts of Africa and Asia,” he said.

He added that opportunities could arise in various forms, whether full acquisitions, joint ventures or minority stakes. However, he sees particularly strong potential for partnerships and alliances with other players . “The business model for telecoms started to take a different shape," he said. "You see more partnerships and alliances than what you have seen in the past and I think this is sometimes a good strategy for entry into certain markets. Maybe you don't go with a major acquisition, maybe you go with a partnership or you go with a small investment."

Following the sale of part of its stake in Indonesia’s PT XL Axiata in September, Julfar added that Etisalat also continued to assess all of its international investments. However he stressed that there were currently no plans to sell any stakes as the telco did with its Indonesian investment.

"We are assessing our situation in all our markets like Africa and Asia to see what would be the best position for Etisalat in these markets. Is it to stay as we are or to grow or to reap back from these markets,” he said. “Today there is no decision about any other markets that we want to sell as we have done in Indonesia.”

Full interview with Ahmed Julfar, group CEO, Etisalat, appears in the October issue of CommsMEA. See right hand side of home page for subscriptions.

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