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Asia-Cell threatened with closure

3 Apr 2007

Asia-Cell, the Iraqi mobile operator part-owned by Kuwait’s Wataniya Telecom (NMTC), is under threat of having its network shut down by a court, according to a statement from Wataniya’s majority owner, Qatar Telecom, yesterday. Referring to the cellco’s incorporated headquarters in the Cayman Islands, Qtel said in a statement given to the Doha stock exchange: ‘A petition to liquidate Asia-Cell Cayman…had recently been filed in the Cayman Island courts by Asia-Cell Cayman’s majority shareholder.’ The statement gave no reason for the petition. Qtel spokesman Adel al-Mutawa played down the potential impact on its business, saying that ‘Asia-Cell will not contribute a material part of the business. You should anticipate healthy double-digit growth in both Q1 and for the full-year.’ Asked by reporters if Qtel would consider buying a majority stake in Asia-Cell, he replied that ‘Qtel is reviewing its options,’ whilst a spokeswoman for Wataniya International declined to comment on the matter. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Asia-Cell is 51%-owned by Iraqi-Kurdish company Asia-Cell Telecommunications, with National Mobile Telecommunications Company (operating as Wataniya Telecom) holding a 40% stake, and the remaining 9% owned by Bahrain-based United Gulf Bank. Asia-Cell owns Iraq’s ‘northern’ mobile licence, covering a region extending from Dahuk on the Turkish border down to Diyala, just north of Baghdad. It had 2,544,891 GSM subscribers at the end of December 2006, all pre-paid, giving it a 26% share of the market.

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