Bahrain’s government plans to sell the majority of its shares in Batelco over the next three years, as part of the country’s Second National Telecommunication Plan approved by parliament earlier this month. The planned sale is aimed at enabling the full-service telco to operate with full independence from the government and make commercial decisions free of political influence. The government currently holds 56.7% of Batelco’s shares through two investment vehicles, Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Co (36.7%) and Amber (20%), whilst it holds additional stakes through two quasi-governmental institutions, the General Organisation for Social Insurance (10%) and the Pension Fund Commission (15.7%). The remainder is held by other financial and commercial organisations and Bahraini and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizens. The company is currently valued at around BHD1.2 billion (USD3.2 billion) based on its traded share price, but it is likely to attract higher-value bids from major foreign telecoms operators.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, in December 2006 the government bought a 20% stake in Batelco from UK-based telco Cable & Wireless (C&W) for USD506.1 million, which exited because it was unlikely to gain management control at the time.