Qatar Telecom Doubles Asiacell Stake for $1.5bn

Reuters reports that Qatar Telecom (Qtel) is to double its stake in Asiacell, Iraq's second biggest mobile operator, to 60 percent for $1.47 billion.

Qtel will initially increase its stake to 53.9 percent from 30 percent, with a further increase pending Iraqi government and regulatory approval.

Qtel did not identify the sellers of the stake, but in January sources told Reuters the operator was planning to buy private equity firm MerchantBridge's 19 percent holding in the company. Bloomberg reports that Eric le Blan, acting chief executive officer of MerchantBridge, declined to comment by phone on Tuesday.

The Iraqi market is about to enter a period of rapid broadband and data growth and Asiacell is well-positioned to meet the demands of the population for high quality, reliable and affordable voice and data services,” Qtel chairman Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani said in the statement. “We continue to work hard on preparing for Asiacell’s landmark IPO planned for later this year.

Iraq's mobile operators have yet to launch 3G services, while fixed line broadband infrastructure is in its infancy.

Asiacell has a 38 percent share of Iraq's mobile subscribers, according to rival Zain's 2011 annual report. Zain's Iraqi unit is the market leader with 53 percent of subscribers, while France Telecom affiliate Korek has 9 percent.

(Sources: Reuters, Bloomberg)

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