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Egypt phone firm eyes acquisitions in Mideast

Date: 4/7/2008 1:41:35 PM

CAIRO: Staterun Telecom Egypt is in talks to acquire a telecom operator in the Middle East, Africa, or eastern Europe to capture growth outside its home market, its chairman said yesterday.

"Our preference is to buy an existing operation rather than greenfield," Akil Beshir said. "We are in preliminary talks with one."

He said he hoped to conclude a deal by the end of the year, but declined to name the target company or country.

"We are focusing on the Middle East and North Africa region and to a lesser extent looking at Africa and eastern Europe," he said, adding the company would seek to buy an operator that combined fixedline and mobile services.

The companys net profit last year climbed 4.4 per cent to 2.534 billion Egyptian pounds ($464 million), driven by growth in Internet and data services and sales of services to other operators.

"The trend is that we will be able to make a higher rate of growth in the bottom line versus last year," Beshir said.

Revenue would likely grow by 2pc to 3pc this year, he added, down from 5pc last year.

Telecom Egypt, which said it had 11.23m fixedline subscribers by the end of last year, will lose its fixedline monopoly when Egypt auctions a second licence in June.

"The fixedline market in Egypt is almost saturated and there is another operator coming," said Walaa Hazem, telecom analyst at HC Securities in Cairo.

The company had about 1.3bn pounds of available cash and could raise up to 16bn pounds through debt, he said.

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