Etisalat turns to Afghanistan

Etisalat turns to Afghanistan

UAE operator Etisalat has planned a $100 million investment in Afghanistan for this year and next as it looks to double subscribers in the country.

At the same time, the company has also brought to a close – after seven months of speculation – its interest in acquiring a 46% stake in the Kuwaiti company Zain.

Etisalat Afghanistan has seen its market share in the domestic market grow to 24% over the last three years and has three million subscribers in the country. According to sources, the company is looking to increase its market share by up to 35% by doubling existing subscriber figures over the next three years. The Afghanistan mobile sector has experienced rapid growth, and according to statistics from TeleGeography has a mobile penetration rate up from 0.1% in early 2003 to 40.2% by June 2010. Etisalat first entered the market in May 2006 after acquiring a GSM licence for $40.1 million.

“Afghanistan is one of the fastest growing telecommunications markets, with a need for infrastructure such as 3G and fibre optics,” said Ahmed bin Ali, SVP of Etisalat Group. “Etisalat always believes that opportunities are born out of crisis and that Afghanistan has the potential of becoming the trade hub of Asia.”

Etisalat’s investment in Afghanistan precedes news that the company has abandoned plans to buy a controlling stake in Kuwaiti rival Zain. The bid, which was estimated to be worth $12 billion, has encountered numerous delays since it was first announced last September. Zain’s divided board, an extended due diligence and regional unrest have all been cited as reasons behind the collapse of the deal.

“Etisalat’s strategy is based upon sound and calculated foundations, one of the most important of which is expansion into regional and international growth markets that offer great opportunities to increase and diversify our sources of revenue,” said bin Ali.

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