Qtel Raises Asiacell Stake

Qatar Telecom will pay $1.47 billion to increase its stake in Iraqi operator Asiacell to 60 per cent.

Qatar Telecom (Qtel) will pay $1.47 billion to increase its stake in Iraqi mobile operator Asiacell to 60 per cent, it announced in a statement today.

The Qatari firm, which already owns 30 per cent of Asiacell, will initially increase its ownership to 53.9 per cent, since a further increase is subject to Iraqi Government and Regulatory Authority approval.

The transaction will be financed from existing funds, Qtel said.

Earlier this year, reports had indicated that Qtel was planning to buy out the 19 per cent stake in Asiacell owned by London-based private equity partner MerchantBridge.

“Asiacell is an outstanding business and has seen excellent performance year on year,” Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al-Thani, the Qtel Group chairman said in a statement. “The Iraqi market is about to enter a period of rapid broadband and data growth,” he said.

“We remain committed to sharing this successful and important company with the Iraqi public and we continue to work hard on preparing for Asiacell’s landmark IPO planned for later this year,” he said.

“Qtel is committed to reinforcing Asiacell’s position as the leading communications company in Iraq and will be investing significantly into this vision,” he added.

Qtel and Asiacell will work with the Iraqi authorities to finalise the transaction, the statement added.

More than 80 per cent of Qtel Group’s revenues are now generated outside Qatar, with a fifth reportedly coming from Iraq.

Qtel made a profit of QAR711 million ($195.29 million) during the first quarter of this year, down 12 per cent compared to the same period last year. Quarterly revenues however rose 7.6 per cent to QAR8.03 billion.

Asiacell’s quarterly revenue increased 19 per cent to QAR1.6 billion.