Qatar Telecom (Qtel) has made an offer to buy the remaining 47.5% stake it does not already own in its Kuwaiti unit National Mobile Telecommunications Company, or Wataniya Telecom, a division which has operations in six countries: Kuwait, Tunisia, Algeria, the Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia and the Maldives. Reuters, quoting a source with direct knowledge of the matter, reports that Qtel is being advised by Barclays Capital and the investment banking arm of National Bank of Kuwait on the proposed purchase of the stake which is worth nearly USD1.9 billion based on Wataniya’s current market capitalisation of USD3.97 billion. Qtel submitted its offer to Kuwait’s Capital Markets Authority, which is reviewing the proposal. A Kuwaiti stock exchange statement said yesterday: ‘Wataniya shares were suspended from trading [temporarily] based on the financial market authority’s instructions. The authority has received a bid from Qatar Telecom to take over the entire transferable shares of the company.’ Based on the financial regulator’s recommendation, Wataniya can review the offer and appoint financial advisors to evaluate it.
The USD3.72 billion purchase of a majority stake in Wataniya in March 2007 remains Qtel’s biggest takeover to date, while 24% of the Kuwaiti unit is publicly floated on the Kuwaiti bourse, with a 23.5% stake retained by the state via sovereign wealth fund Kuwait Investment Authority. As it follows its long term goal to be among the world’s top 20 telecoms operators in terms of market value by 2020, majority state-owned Qtel has made moves to raise stakes in its subsidiaries recently. Earlier this month the Qatari group reached a provisional agreement to double its holding in Iraqi mobile operator Asiacell to 60% for around USD1.47 billion.