DUBAI (Reuters) – Emirates Telecommunications Corp said yesterday it was interested in bidding for a stake in Kuwait’s third mobile phone operator to tap demand for telecoms in the Middle East’s fourth-largest oil producer.
Kuwait’s government has invited companies to express an interest in competing for a 26 percent stake in the operator that it is setting up, by a Sept. 7 deadline. Bahrain Telecommunications Co (Batelco) said it was too interested.
“We are very interested in bidding,” said Jamal al-Jarwan, general manager of international business at Emirates Telecommunications (Etisalat), the third-largest Arab telecom provider by market value. Etisalat is controlled by the government of the United Arab Emirates.
“It makes a lot of a commercial sense for us to have operations in many countries, especially in the Middle East … Kuwait’s GDP per capita is high,” he said by telephone.
Etisalat Chairman Mohammed Omran told Reuters last month the company was evaluating the Kuwaiti invitation, though had not make a decision about bidding.
Still, it is not clear the Kuwaiti government will allow foreign companies to compete for the stake, Jarwan said.
Kuwait’s al-Seyassah newspaper said on Monday the Kuwaiti government had decided against allowing foreign firms to take part.
“We are looking at the requirements for the third mobile licence,” said a Batelco spokesman, declining to be identified or more specific.
On Thursday, Kuwait’s al-Wasat newspaper reported as many as 11 foreign and 14 local companies, including Saudi Telecom Co and Egypt’s Orascom Telecom, were considering competing for the stake.
Others include Oman Telecommunications Co., National Bank of Kuwait and Kuwait Finance House, the newspaper reported, without saying how it got the information.
Kuwait’s Global Investment House, Turkcell and Commercial Bank of Kuwait (CBK) may also bid, the newspaper said.
A CBK official, who did not want to be identified, said the bank was preparing a bid in partnership with Noor Financial and a telecom operator he would not identify.
Kuwait’s government will sell 50 percent of the planned operator in an initial public offering, 26 percent to an operator and keep the rest.
Kuwait has two mobile phone networks, one run by Mobile Telecommunications Co and the other by National Mobile Telecommunications Co, which is controlled by Qatar Telecommunications Co.
Hatim al-Gammal, head of investor relations at Orascom, and a spokesman of National Bank of Kuwait declined to comment. A spokesman for Batelco could not immediately comment.