Oman has launched the sale of a 25% stake in Oman Telecommunications (Omantel), in a deal it hopes will boost the state-controlled firm’s competitive position. The government, which owns 70% of Omantel, said it could give the incoming investor voting rights in the firm. According to a statement by the Ministry of Finance published on the Muscat Stock Exchange website: ‘The government invites the submission of expressions of interest from suitably qualified strategic investors … in a process leading to the sale of an interest representing 25% of Omantel’s issued share capital.’ Citigroup Global Markets and National Bank of Oman will advise the government on the sale, which should be concluded by the end of 2008. The government sold 30% of Omantel to the public in 2005. The Middle East’s two largest telcos by market value, Emirates Telecommunications Co (Etisalat) and Saudi Telecom Co (STC) have both said they would be interested in the Omantel stake.
Omantel provides fixed line, mobile and internet services, with 268,065 wireline and 1.48 million wireless subscribers at the end of 2007. Last year, the Omani government cut the royalties Omantel and its wireless competitor Nawras have to pay on mobile phone services from 12% to 7%. The move helped Omantel boost first-quarter profit by 60%.