Qatar Telecom bids for $1.9 billion Wataniya stake

DUBAI Tue Jun 26, 2012 11:36am EDT

A log of Qatar telecom-Qtel is seen in Doha October 22, 2009. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad

A log of Qatar telecom-Qtel is seen in Doha October 22, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Fadi Al-Assaad

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Qatar Telecom QTEL.QA (Qtel) has offered to buy the 47.5 percent of Kuwait's Wataniya NMTC.KW that it does not already own as it seeks to build its presence across the Gulf region.

State-held Qtel confirmed on Tuesday that it has submitted an offer document to Kuwait's Capital Markets Authority (CMA). "The proposed offer is in line with Qtel's strategy to simplify the group structure while providing an attractive offer to minority shareholders," it said in a statement.

Based on Wataniya's current market capitalization of $3.97 billion, the 47.5 per cent stake is worth about $1.9 billion, Reuters data shows.

Kuwait Investment Authority, the Gulf state's sovereign wealth fund, holds a 23.5 percent stake in Wataniya and the remaining shares are publicly held.

"Qtel has been keen to boost its Wataniya stake, as with most of its portfolio companies. With Wataniya, it's really the international operations that they are interested in," said a telecoms banker who declined to be named.

Wataniya, whose chief executive resigned this month, is Kuwait's No.2 telecoms operator and also has operations in Tunisia, Algeria, the Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia and the Maldives.

Qtel aims to expand via acquisitions while also growing organically in countries such as Tunisia, Algeria, and Iraq, where its existing mobile and fixed networks need major investment, its CEO told Reuters in March.

The company agreed this month to double its stake in Iraq's No. 2 operator, Asiacell, to 60 percent for $1.47 billion as it seeks to exploit rising demand for broadband. [ID:nL5E8H54VM] It also owns a majority stake in Oman's Nawras NWRS.OM and Indonesia's No.2 mobile phone provider Indosat PT (ISAT.JK).

Qtel is being advised by Barclays Capital (BARC.L) and the investment banking arm of National Bank of Kuwait (NBKK.KW), a source close to the matter told Reuters.

New capital markets rules introduced in Kuwait last year require any entity that buys more than 30 percent of a listed Kuwaiti company to bid for the remaining shares within 30 days.

The Kuwait bourse suspended trading in Wataniya shares after being notified of Qtel's offer by the CMA.

(Editing by David Goodman)

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