France Telecom (FT) is proceeding with the purchase of a stake in Iraqi cellco Korek Telecom, after it was chosen as a preferred bidder over South Africa’s MTN, according to a report by Middle East business intelligence service MEED. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that the GSM operator, based in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, won a nationwide licence in 2007 and has proceeded to branch out from its northern homeland to cover central and southern regions of Iraq. Korek is Iraq’s third largest cellco by subscribers. The MEED report adds that Korek, with a customer base approaching three million in a market with room for growth, is an attractive asset for the French group, which recently expanded in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region by purchasing a 40% stake in Morocco’s Meditel. FT is looking to increase its territorial presence further via more acquisitions, with the overall aims of doubling its revenues and reaching 300 million subscribers worldwide. The deal, which is yet to be finalised, would also assist Korek’s further expansion plans with the investment of a global player, whilst also representing a cheaper option for FT than bidding for a new licence in Iraq and building a network from scratch. Meanwhile, FT has recently established research and development labs in Amman and Cairo to create services and products specific to the Middle East market.
Providing a cautionary note, UAE-based Etisalat previously failed to negotiate a stake purchase in Korek, saying that the Iraqi firm demanded ‘too much for too little’ in talks with the Abu Dhabi operator more than two years ago.