Qatar Telecom interested in $1.9 billion Wataniya stake

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Wataniya Telecom is majority owned by Qatar Telecom. Photo - Commsmea.com

Qatar Telecom (QTEL) has expressed its interest in buying a stake valued at about $1.9 billion in Kuwait’s National Mobile Telecommunications Co. as part of its bid to boost portfolio and stave off competition at home.

Qatar Telecom has offered National Mobile, also known as Wataniya Telecom, to buy the shares it does not already own in, the Capital Markets Authority said in a statement to the Kuwait Stock Exchange. The CMA added that shares of Wataniya Telecom (NMTC) will remain suspended until the regulator takes a decision on the request.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg, Qatar Telecom, the gas-rich nation’s biggest phone company, owns a 52.5% stake in Wataniya Telecom. Based on Wataniya Telecom’s closing share price on Monday, the stake Qatar Telecom is seeking to acquire is valued at 526.7 million dinars ($1.9 billion), according to financial wire service’s calculations.

Qatar Telecom, which owns stakes in phone companies from Tunisia to Indonesia, is facing a stiff competition from Vodafone Qatar. The Doha-based company last month doubled its stake in Asiacell to 60% at a price of $1.47bn as part of its bid to capitalise on rising demand for mobile broadband in Iraq.

It also teamed up with Princesse Holding of Tunisia in 2010 to buy Orascom Telecom Holding SAE’s 50% stake in Telecom Tunisie for $1.2 billion.

According to Qatar Telecom’s Q1 financial statement, Wataniya Telecom encompasses Qatar Telecom Group’s businesses in Kuwait, Tunisia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the Maldives and Palestine. Bloomberg data suggests the Kuwait Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, is the second-biggest shareholder in the Kuwaiti phone company with a stake of 23.5%.

Wataniya Telecom shares have gained 13% this year.

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