CAIRO, (Reuters) – Telecom Egypt, the largest Arab fixed-line phone operator by subscribers, was still looking to buy a telecom firm in the region to reduce dependence on its home market, its chairman said.
The company, which faces market saturation in Egypt where it has a monopoly, said in August it could spend at least $1 billion on an acquisition in the Middle East or North Africa.
“We always have three preferences, the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, an existing operation rather than greenfield and an integrated fixed and mobile operation; this is the ideal target for us,” Akil Beshir told reporters late on Sunday.
Beshir said the company was “underleveraged” and could take advantage of lower asset prices during the global financial crisis.
“Obviously with the crisis it’s a double-edged sword as from one point it makes more assets available at more attractive prices but at the same time you have to be careful about the future of any of those assets,” he said.
Beshir said it was “too early” to forecast revenue growth in 2009, but said the industry could be hit as tourism declines in Egypt.