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UPDATE 1-Qatar Telecom rebrands as expansion gathers pace
(Recasts, adds analyst quote, context)
By Matt Smith
DUBAI Feb 26 (Reuters) - Qatar Telecom (Qtel) will change its brand name to Ooredoo, which means "I want" in Arabic, bringing its operations across the Middle East, Africa and Asia under a single name over the next two years.
The move comes after the government-controlled company spent about $3.9 billion raising its stakes in three subsidiaries over the past 12 months. It is also in talks to buy Vivendi's 53 percent stake in Morocco's Maroc Telecom.
At present, the 16-country operator uses various brand names, largely as a legacy of buying piecemeal stakes in these units, but all operations in which it owns a controlling interest will be rebranded under the new name, the company said on Tuesday.
"It is our belief that we can better serve our global customers by leveraging the combined resources and assets of a strong, unified global business under one brand," Qtel chief executive Nasser Marafih said in a statement.
Dropping any reference to Qatar from the company's brand name may be a reflection of the relatively small contribution of its domestic market, which accounts for only about a fifth of consolidated earnings. Revenue for the nine months to Sept. 30 was 25.02 billion riyals ($6.9 billion).
Qtel will be the second Gulf-based multi-country operator to bring its foreign units under a single brand after Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co switched to the name Zain in 2007.
The other two big regional players - Saudi Telecom Co and Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates - use multiple brand names across various markets.
"The idea behind having a unitary brand is that it will help create a coherent identity that communicates what the company does," said Matthew Reed, a senior analyst at Informa in Dubai.
"In theory, that should have commercial advantages because consumers will understand more readily what the company is about. It's more efficient from an operational point of view than having multiple brands across disparate markets, as Qtel does at present."
Yet a singular brand is inflexible, Reed warned, with telecom operators often preferring to use separate brand names in markets where they are targeting different income groups.
Zain has various meanings in Arabic including good and beautiful and is a particularly popular word among Gulf Arabs.
It is easy to pronounce whatever the nationality of the speaker - an important factor in a region with a large expatriate population - while the multi-syllable Ooredoo may prove more difficult, a point made by various people on Twitter following the announcement.
Over the past 12 months, Qtel has increased its stakes in Iraq's Asiacell to 64 percent and Kuwait's No.2 operator Wataniya to 92.1 percent. Wataniya owns 90 percent of Tunisiana, having bought a further 15 percent stake in January, and is the company through which Qtel holds a controlling stake in Algeria's Nedjma.
Qtel also has a majority holding in Indosat in Indonesia and Oman's Nawras.
($1 = 3.6409 Qatar rials) (Reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by Dinesh Nair, Jeremy Laurence and Mark Potter)
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