Reuters reports that UAE incumbent Etisalat has said it would like to buy into and run state-controlled Oman Telecommunications (Omantel), which is preparing to court a long-term investor. Omantel’s stock surged 10% on the news, the first public expression of interest in the telco since Oman’s government said earlier this month that it would sell a stake in the company to make it more competitive. ‘Oman is a growth market, and there are synergies for us in the Middle East,’ said Jamal al-Jarwan, chief executive of Etisalat International Investments, adding that he expected the sale to include a contract to manage Omantel, although he declined to be drawn on how much Etisalat would consider investing. The government owns 70% of Omantel and the rest is traded on the Omani exchange. It has not given any details about the sale process.
Etisalat, the third largest Arab telecom operator by market value, has spent more than USD6.5 billion on foreign acquisitions in the past three years resulting in a strong presence across the Middle East and Africa. Its largest investments outside the UAE are in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan. It is also known to be after mobile phone licences in Kuwait and Qatar, markets in which Omantel’s domestic rival, Qatar Telecommunications (Qtel) operates. In Oman, Qtel owns cellco Nawras.