BT Expands MENA Presence

The UK-based telco sets its sights on the region’s young and growing population.

British Telecom Global Services’ (BTGS) focus on emerging markets is set to continue as it almost doubles the size of its workforce in the Middle East and Africa with the creation of 170 jobs, 140 of them in Turkey and South Africa.

In the past 18 months, BTGS boosted its presence in Asia and Latin America, saying the two continents had seen orders up 50 per cent in the first three quarters of 2011, and high growth rates in MENA region have necessitated similar steps.

“The addressable market in Turkey, the Middle East and Africa was worth a combined 5.4bn in 2011. IT spending growth across the regions is expected to top ten per cent in 2012,” the company said in an emailed statement, citing IDC’s “Middle East, Africa, and Turkey Top 10 Predictions, 2012.”

Some 21 cities in the MENA region boast network connection centres of varying types, from DSL and fibre to satellite and ethernet access. BT Connect has customers in 170 countries.

“The Middle East already hosts some of the world’s main business hubs, and is crucial for many of our customers,” said Jeff Kelly, CEO, BTGS. “New opportunities are emerging in the region, and we are now expanding from our thriving base in the UAE. Turkey is a key business bridge between Europe, Asia and the Middle East and is growing rapidly.”

Luis Alvarez Satorre, president, BT Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America, said the company would expand its regional network capability, develop a larger telecoms portfolio and bring regional headcount to 400 people with Dubai serving as the company’s hub in the region.

Emerging market GDP growth is a driver of the company’s expanding international portfolio. UK Trade & Investment said last June the UAE was the UK’s largest export market. The Economist’s “The World in 2012” said MENA growth was set to be four per cent this year.

BT has a joint venture in Saudi Arabia with 180 people, known as BT Al Saudia, and a satellite centre of excellence in Turkey. Etisalat BT Innovation Centre is a research and innovation hub affiliated with Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi. BT has been in the Middle East since 1985.

BT serves around 600 large organisations, including many of the world’s leading global companies. The rapid expansion of airlines like Emirates and Etihad, as well as hydrocarbons- based businesses like SABIC and Aramco, augured well, Satorre said.

“BT is very confident in the Middle East region. It has a young population. We can see a lot of innovations coming from regional companies expanding their services around the world,” he said.

“The [Arab Spring] is an opportunity to get into the best potential position for the future. We are bringing all our expertise to create the customer experience in a different way.”

The company does a good deal of direct and indirect business in the region, as elsewhere in the world, meaning that revenues often associated with the Middle East are booked elsewhere. BTGS would not comment on the dollar-size of its investment in the region.

Away from MENA, BT will provide connectivity services for the London Olympics 2012, the most connected games in the world. It also provides a service platform for the world’s biggest logistics hub, the Singapore Port Authority.

Founded in 1846, mother company BT had revenues of $20 billion in 2011 and employs 93,000 people worldwide, over a quarter of them with BTGS. Some 45 per cent of BTGS customers are corporates, 24 per cent public sector in the UK and overseas, and 19 per cent financial institutions. It has vocational training with 25 universities around the world, including Cambridge, MIT and Tsinghua.