Middle East tycoons stump up for Virgin action

13 Mar 2013

The Gulf Investment Corporation (GIC), a financial institution wholly owned by the six countries that comprise the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates – is poised to invest USD50 million in Dubai-based mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa (VMMEA). ArabianBusiness.com reports that following the deal’s completion, the GIC and Virgin Group will be the two biggest single shareholders in VMMEA, alongside prominent global and regional shareholders including, ePlanet Capital, Dolphin International, NTEC and Millennium Private Equity. Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, commented: ‘Virgin Mobile is the leading MVNO operator in the Middle East and Africa with operations in Oman, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. We intend to create a large regional mobile telecom player reaching more than ten million customers. The investment by GIC is an important show of support by an important institutional investor for our ambitious plans’.

VMMEA was formed in June 2012 through the merger of mobile service providers Virgin Group and FRiENDi GROUP, who inked a strategic partnership deal to merge their regional assets and accelerate expansion in the Middle East and Africa. The combined group now manages the Virgin Mobile in South Africa and FRiENDi units in Oman and Jordan and a FRiENDi-branded ‘partnership deal’ with Zain Saudi Arabia. The merger created a regional mobile services player with more than a million customers.

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