According to the Financial Times, the European telecom giant France Telecom is engaged in talks to buy a minority stake in the Iraqi mobile phone operator Korek, as part of a bid to expand its operations in the Middle East.
Although no deal has yet been struck, financial observers say that a potential agreement could give Korek an enterprise value of around $1.5bn.
Korek was founded in 2000 by Sirwan Mustafa, its sole shareholder and nephew of Kursdistan Region’s President, Massoud Barzani.
Although the company first concentrated on mobile telecom services in Kurdistan, it obtained a nationwide operating license in 2007 and now has an estimated 3 million customers.
Korek’s competitors in the sector are Zain, the country’s largest mobile operator with 11.8 million customers, and AsiaCell which has 7.9 million.
Zain whose network of affiliates includes several countries in Africa and the Middle East, is currently in talks to sell a controlling stake to the Dubai-based telecom group, Etisalat.
AsiaCell is part of the acquisitive Qatar Telecom which has extensive operations throughout the Middle East.
(Sources: AKnews, Financial Times)