Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Asiacell plans $300mn Iraq expansion

(Reuters) - Asiacell Communications Co., an affiliate of Qatar Telecommunications Co. (Qtel), could spend as much as $300 million a year to expand its Iraq network, a shareholder said on Sunday. Asiacell paid $1.25 billion for one of three mobile licences sold last week and could consider a bid for the Iraq assets of Egypt's Orascom Telecom, which dropped out of the auction at the eleventh hour.
Orascom and two Kuwaiti operators, Mobile Telecommunications Co (MTC) and National Mobile Telecommunications Co., set up networks in Iraq after the U.S-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. Qtel bought a majority stake this year in National Mobile Telecommunications, which set up its Iraq operations through a separate affiliate, Asiacell Cayman Islands.
MTC and Kurdish operator Korek won the other two licences.
Asiacell Communications is looking to raise conventional or Islamic debt to fund expansion in Iraq, said Basil al-Rahim, managing partner of UK-based investment bank Merchant Bridge, which holds a 19 percent stake in Asiacell Communications. "The rough ratios of what you spend per subscriber per year is anywhere between $120 to $127 per subscriber. Then you have the upgrade of old equipment and security, so it could be $200 to $300 million a year."

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