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Qtel CEO identifies acquisition opportunities in Middle East

February 20, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Qatari incumbent forges ahead with expansion plan; also keen to boost footprint in Asia, but dismisses India… for now.

The price of telecoms assets has fallen since the economic downturn providing an opportunity for Qtel to increase its presence in its home region of the Middle East as well as further afield, company CEO Dr Nasser Marafih told Total Telecom this week.

“Valuations… are [now] more on the realistic side,” Dr Nasser said, explaining that Qtel is looking to extend its footprint both in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and in Asia; the telco already operates in 17 markets across those regions.

“We’re always on the look-out [for acquisition opportunities]… there are going to be opportunities in those regions, especially in the MENA region,” he predicted.

“There will be consolidation in the [MENA] region, and Qtel is well-positioned to take advantage of it, he added. If you are patient, you can “get those operations, the right operations, at the right price.”

Qtel is interested in acquiring the new licence that will be sold off in Syria, for example, Dr Nasser said.

“There will be opportunities in Asia too,” he went on, explaining that when Qtel embarked upon its first wave of international expansion in 2007 it selected Asia rather than Africa because “it was less crowded in terms of players and the number of licences”. In addition, “Asia is better regulated than Africa,” he added.

Qtel operates in Asia through its 65% stake in Indonesia’s PT Indosat and also provides WiMAX services in its own right in the Philippines and Pakistan. However, it is not considering a move into neighbouring India any time soon.

“We looked at it, but we were not encouraged,” Dr Nasser said. “It might become interesting in the future… [but at present] it is too crowded, too difficult to operate there.”

At home in Qatar, Qtel is focusing its energies on developing both its fixed and mobile networks.

“We [have] started building fibre to the home,” Dr Nasser said; under phase one, the company aims to 50% of household with 100-Mbps access “by the end of next year”. Broadband penetration is good in Qatar, but not reaching the levels it has in Europe, for example. “That’s where we believe there is room for growth,” Dr Nasser said.

Qtel has a nationwide HSPA+ network offering 21-Mbps services and is planning to move to 42 Mbps soon. In addition, “this year we are doing a trial for LTE,” Dr Nasser said.

However, he insisted that Qtel is not yet facing an acute capacity crunch in its data network.

“[We have] enough capacity to cater for the growth for the short term,” he said. Nonetheless, Qtel is using its own WiFi network to offload traffic from the mobile network.

Originally posted at: http://www.totaltele.com/view.aspx?ID=462647&G=2&C=1&Page=0

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