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Etisalat seeks Kurdish deal

29 Feb 2008

The Financial Times reports that United Arab Emirates incumbent telco Etisalat is close to striking a deal to form a new joint venture with a mobile operator in the Kurdish region of Iraq, according to Mohammad al-Qemzi, Etisalat’s CEO. ‘We are now looking at a joint venture with an existing licence holder… We are now just waiting for final agreement to get the deal done,’ he said, without giving further details. With two of Iraq’s three mobile concessionaires already owned by Gulf-based groups (Zain Iraq [formerly Atheer] is part of Kuwait’s Zain Group and AsiaCell is part of a consortium led by Qatar’s Qtel), observers believe that Korek Telecom is the most likely partner.

Korek was awarded a mobile concession in August 2007 at a cost of USD1.25 billion, and had negotiated to acquire the assets of previous licensee Orascom, but the deal fell apart and Orascom’s network was sold to Zain late last year. This left Korek with an expensive nationwide permit but only a regional infrastructure. Hameed Akrawi, deputy CEO of Korek, said he had been in talks with several companies, including Etisalat. ‘We are still continuing discussions with them but we have no final agreement,’ he said.

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