DUBAI, (Reuters) – Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat) said on Monday it had submitted a binding offer on Sept. 4 to buy a 100 percent share in Millicom, Sri Lanka.
The statement on Abu Dhabi’s bourse website did not give further details and the United Arab Emirates company, which operates in 18 countries, was not immediately available for comment.
The offer for Millicom’s Sri Lankan operations follows Etisalat’s failed bid for a stake in Morocco’s Meditel and underlines the firm’s determination to expand into emerging markets beyond the Gulf Arab region, an analyst said.
“Etisalat is in Pakistan and Afghanistan and is about to launch in India so this deal would make sense and would be an extension of its footprint, but we need more details on the bid and there are other players involved,” said Simon Simonian, Shuaa Capital telecoms analyst.
Simonian said emerging markets such as Sri Lanka offer low penetration and high growth potential, but are more difficult to operate in than developed markets such as Europe.
“Etisalat has developed expertise in building networks and running operations in emerging markets,” said Simonian.
Etisalat, second in market value among Arab telecoms firms behind Saudi Telecom, has also made a bid for a Libyan licence is keen to expand abroad amid stiff competition at home. In November, Etisalat said it had more than $3 billion in cash to fund purchases in 2009.
The news weighed on Etisalat shares, down 1.7 percent at 0702 GMT, extending losses after equalling a 10-month closing high on Thursday.
The Abu Dhabi-based telecom firm is 60 percent owned by the UAE government, the world’s third biggest oil exporter, and the emirate of Abu Dhabi controls 90 percent of the country’s oil reserves.
Last year, Etisalat bought a 45 percent stake in new Indian operator Swan Telecom for about $900 million.