Orascom sells Tunisiana stake

Orascom sells Tunisiana stake

Egyptian operator Orascom has finalised the sale of its 50% stake in Tunisian operator Tunisiana to Qtel in a deal worth $1.2 billion.

Qtel subsidiary Wataniya, which already owns 50% of Tunisiana, will now take on board the majority of the remaining stake, with 25% of it going to Tunisian consortium Princesse Holding.

Dobek Pater, analyst with consulting firm Africa Analysis, said that with Orascom still finalising a possible merger with Russian operator Vimpelcom, the money from the Tunisiana sale may ultimately be intended to support the merged operation.

"Orascom wants to use the money to reduce its debt, as well as expand more into the broadband market and perhaps data management sectors in its home market," said Pater.

The sale was first announced in November 2010, with both companies working since to thrash out a suitable deal. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al-Thani, chairman of both Qtel and Wataniya, said: "The successful conclusion of this agreement underlines the strong bonds that link Qatar with Tunisia." He said Qtel is hoping that, with the consolidation of Tunisiana, it can increase revenue and EBITDA by 10%.

The impact which the recent political turmoil has had on the telecoms sector in Tunisia is unclear, said Pater. "Irrespective of political instability or conflict in a country, telecommunications don’t normally suffer, because they are used by both sides," he said. "From an international stakeholder’s perspective though, it will definitely have a negative impact."

Tunisia is a relatively mature telecoms market within its region, with multiple mobile operations and a mobile penetration rate of 92%. The focus for the market is now likely to be the development of broadband and the bundling of services.

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