Zain Iraq to Start Ops in Kurdistan

The Iraqi unit of Kuwait telecoms firm Zain (ZAIN.KW) will start operating in Iraqi Kurdistan in January and expects to boost its subscriber base by up to two million in 2011, its chief executive said on Sunday, in an interview with Reuters.

Emad Makiya, the new CEO of Zain Iraq, said Zain group, the Gulf Arab region's third-largest telecoms firm by value, would continue to invest in Iraq, a key high-growth market, and expected revenue for 2011 to be up at least 15-20 percent.

"We will be entering Kurdistan. You will see us in there, a fully fledged network, by the beginning of 2011 ... We want to reach all the Iraqis everywhere," Makiya told Reuters in his first interview since taking over at the helm in June.

"Iraq is on the top of their list. It's their baby, and it's really important. The group is really paying huge attention to Iraq. They want to make sure it's successful, and they're investing."

The mobile phone market did not exist in Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein but has boomed since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled him.

Zain is the biggest operator in the country and has invested $4.5 billion in its network after securing a 15-year license for $1.25 billion in 2007. It competes with AsiaCell and Korek, which is based in Iraq's Kurdish-run north.

Makiya said the Iraq unit would invest 16-20 percent of its revenue every year into upgrading and expanding its network in the country for at least the next three years.

Zain Iraq posted a 10 percent rise in revenue to $723.9 million for the first-half of 2010.

(Source: Reuters)

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