Saudi Telecom targets acquisitions in 2013

Saudi Telecom (STC) has confirmed it is planning to make major acquisitions in the Middle East in 2013 and expand its regional presence.

A report in Reuters cites the company’s chief executive of its international operations, Ghassan Hasbani, as stating that Saudi Telecom is in an “acquisition mode more than ever before”. Hasbani was speaking at the World Economic Forum conference in Jordan.

While some operators in the Middle East, including UAE-based Etisalat and Qatar Telecom have expanded across regions rapidly, STC has largely operated in its home market up until now. It has recently made investments, including the acquisition of an 80% stake in Indonesia’s Axis and 35% stake in Turkey’s Oger Telecom. STC also has mobile licences in Bahrain and Kuwait.

According to Reuters, the push to expand its operations comes amidst a Q3 profit decrease and increasing competition in Saudi from rivals Mobily and Zain. Hasbani told local reporters: “We are looking at opportunities that complement our footprint and strengthens our investment portfolio and we are looking to focus on the Middle East region in markets where there is good opportunity.”

The ITU estimates Saudi Arabia’s mobile penetration ranks third in the world, at a staggering 188%, and it appears all three operators in the region will make necessary investment in the broadband and data market to limit the effect of falling voice revenues.

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