Reuters reports that Pakistan mobile operator Warid Telecom has been put up for sale by its owners, Abu Dhabi Group, sparking rumours that China Mobile and United Arab Emirates-based Etisalat may look to bid for the firm. According to unnamed people familiar with the matter, the Abu Dhabi Group – which holds 100% of Warid’s shares via Warid Telecom International – is seeking to offload its entire equity holding, although a contradictory report says it may look to sell a smaller controlling stake. It is understood that the Pakistani cellco’s owners have selected Lazard and UK-based Standard Chartered as advisers for the sale, which could generate around USD1 billion. Walid Irshaid, the CEO of Pakistan Telecommunications (PTCL), a unit of Etisalat, said the company is weighing a potential bid. ‘We are interested to see if it makes sense for us, but it’s not only us. Warid is an existing operator that has been here for many years and so we’re saying let’s look at the prospects,’ he told Reuters.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that Pakistan’s crowded mobile market is currently contested by six operators – Mobilink, Telenor Pakistan, Pakistan Telecommunications Mobile Ltd (Ufone), CMPak (Zong), Special Communication Organisation (SCO) and Warid – which between them counted more than 121.7 million subscribers at 31 March 2013, a cellular penetration of 69.4%. However, Warid, which held a market share of 10.2% at the same date, was well down in fifth spot and is struggling to combat declining margins and low levels of ARPU in the face of intense sector competition.