STC ‘on the hunt for international acquisitions’

12 October 2011 | Guy Matthews


Saudi Telecom Co (STC), incumbent telco of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has said it plans to extend its portfolio of international licences in the Middle East, north Africa and Asia.

STC already controls a 35% stake in Turkish operator Oger Telecom, holds licences in Bahrain and Kuwait and, further afield, owns part of Indonesian firm Axis. It has predicted that rapidly liberalising markets across its target region will open up acquisition opportunities, as well as openings to apply for competitive licences.

STC is already an applicant, in competition with Qatari incumbent Qtel, for Syria’s third licence for mobile services, but a final decision in that process is on hold pending civil unrest in the country. Iraq may provide another opportunity, with a fourth mobile licence up for grabs over the next few months.

STC said it believes funding for licences and acquisitions will be easier to achieve going forwards than has been the case since the global financial crisis that started in 2008. It proposes to fund M&A activity through a mix of debt and equity.

Meanwhile Kuwait-based Zain Group has said that its bid to sell 25% of Zain Saudi Arabia to Bahraini carrier Batelco foundered because of disagreements over the financing of the $1.2 billion deal, not because either party withdrew.

Zain Group said it is no longer considering selling its Saudi arm, the country’s third mobile licensee, and will focus instead its ongoing capital restructuring plan.